In a couple years, patients could be able to get their radiation therapy in Astoria.
Columbia Memorial Hospital and Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute announced Saturday at the CMH Foundation’s Denim & Diamonds fundraiser the CMH/OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative, a project to build a new 18,000-square-foot comprehensive cancer treatment center and specialty clinic in Astoria, with construction kicking off in 2016 and completion as early as the first quarter of 2017.
“Our collaboration with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is a significant enhancement to the healthcare services available to our community,” wrote the hospital’s CEO Erik Thorsen in a release, before holding a press conference along with representatives from CMH, its foundation and OHSU. “We are working to bridge the divide of accessible healthcare services locally. Our growing partnership with OHSU aims to continue bringing medical excellence to the North Coast without the miles.”
Medical oncologist Dr. Jennifer Lycette, who staffs the existing CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center, said the new center will offer external beam radiation, which she added covers about 80 percent of radiation procedures, with more specialized procedures offered in Portland. She added that the center hopes to offer Positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging, which combines the CT’s imaging of tissues and organs with the PET’s ability to tell if there is abnormal activity.
The Denim & Diamonds launch of the project also foreshadowed a capital campaign seeking $3 million. CMH Foundation Executive Director Janet Niemi said the foundation has raised $1.5 million of that amount so far, including $835,000 from the Denim & Diamonds fundraiser Saturday. The majority of fundraising for the past two years, Thorsen said, has been dedicated to cancer services, and CMH has already been reaching out to past major donors.
The entire project could cost $8 to $10 million, although Thorsen didn’t provide the exact split between CMH and OHSU.
While the current CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center is staffed by Lycette and nurse practitioner Anne Hulstrom, the expansion will add a radiation oncologist to be hired by the Knight Cancer Institute. Thorsen said the hospitals expect to provide about 2,800 radiation treatments in the first year of operation.
Too much travel
“The whole goal of this is to help our partners provide more services locally,” said Dr. Mark O’Hollaren, director of clinical outreach.
The existing CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center, founded in 2010, already serves 300 patients a month according to the hospital. But local cancer patients who require radiation must travel to Longview, Wash., and Portland. Lycette said radiation treatments can take 10 to 15 minutes, adding that people when she worked in Portland used to sometimes get them on their way to work.
The CMH release on the collaboration shared the story of Judy Coleman, a four-year survivor of esophageal cancer and a member of the CMH Patient-Family Advisory Council.
“At one time during my treatment, the fatigue of travel had me thinking about ending my treatment prematurely,” Coleman said. “Having radiation therapy locally may make the difference between continuing and giving up treatment for some cancer patients.”
In another testimonial, CMH’s Materials Manager Janice Pember talked about finding a pea-sized lump in her right breast, which turned out to be breast cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes. Pember completed a 12-week chemotherapy regime at the CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center, but a second lump appeared in her left breast. Not wanting to make daily trips to PeaceHealth St. Johns Medical Center for six weeks of radiation therapy, Pember opted for surgery.
“I have one more surgery coming up on May 21, this year,” Pember said in the release. “This surgery will nearly take me to the finish of my double mastectomy with breast reconstruction treatment plan.”
Pember said the transition between CMH and OHSU, whose surgeons have performed her double mastectomy, has been easy, with doctors able to immediately view her medical files between hospitals electronically.
Working well together
OHSU Knight Cancer Center partners with CMH in Astoria, Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Legacy Health in the Portland Metro Area, the Oregon Rural Practiced-based Research Network, the Salem Cancer Institute and Tuality Healthcare.
“The relationship is one of those things that continues to build on itself,” said Dr. Mark Richardson, OHSU School of Medicine, about the partnership with CMH in Astoria stretching back to 2010:
• The CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center opened in the CMH Health & Wellness Pavillion in August 2010.
• The Astoria Development Commission awarded CMH and OHSU a $300,000 urban-renewal grant in January 2011 to help pay for improvements to the Park Medical Building.
• The new 4,200-square-foot CMH/OHSU Cancer Care Center opened in the Park Medical Building October 2011.
The general contractor for the new center will be Portland-based P & C Construction, which has worked on numerous local projects from Clatsop Community College’s Jerome Campus Redevelopment Project and the upcoming Patriot Hall Redevelopment to the Astoria Sports Complex and Astoria City Hall renovation. Managing the project will be Al Jaques, who’s managed many of the aforementioned projects, and Mike Day of Beaverton-based Day CPM Services. Thorsen said the hospitals are still evaluating two different sites on its main campus.
For more information on how to support the project, contact the CMH Foundation at 503-325-3208.