North Arundel Hospital to start work on $15 millon cancer treatment center

October 03, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

North Arundel Hospital plans to break ground today for a $15 million cancer center, billed as a comprehensive diagnostic, treatment and education facility to meet the needs of cancer patients in the county, especially those who now travel long distances for care.

The 44,000-square-foot, three-story building, to be named the Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be constructed on the west side of the hospital's campus in Glen Burnie. The center will house radiation and medical treatment services, a linear accelerator that delivers radiation treatments, examination rooms and suites for patients receiving chemotherapy.

The facility is expected to take 10 to 12 months to complete and will be connected to the hospital's main building by an underground tunnel.

"I'm really looking forward to it. There are so many people in our county that have cancer and have had to go far away for treatment," said the hospital's chief nurse executive, Colleen Roach, adding that some North County residents drive as far as Washington for treatment. "In some cases, people need treatment once a day or once a week, and traveling just adds to the hassle factor.

"We will basically offer the same thing people are traveling a lot farther for now," Roach said.

While the center will tackle all forms of cancer, doctors there will focus primarily on cancers of the lung, colon, breast and prostate. Combined, the four cancers are responsible for more than half of all cancer deaths in the county.

Nearly a third of county cancer deaths are from lung cancer alone, according to March 2001 county health statistics. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the county after heart disease, the figures show.

Hospital staff say the center will boost the hospital's cancer-fighting arsenal through the addition of radiation treatment services, or radiation oncology, which the hospital does not currently provide. It will also allow the hospital to provide outpatient cancer care and help centralize its cancer resources by placing them under one roof, a move that will make it easier for physicians to coordinate patient care, they said.

The hospital's chief of medical oncology, Dr. Russell R. DeLuca, said that he has an office on Crain Highway a few blocks away from the hospital, but must send patients to a private radiation facility on Hospital Drive.

"We're telephone-interacting a lot during the course of the day," DeLuca said of the arrangement. "The new facility will have radiation on the first floor and medical oncology on the second. By housing everything in one building you can maximize the utilization of everybody."

In addition to state-of-the-art radiation treatment, the cancer center also hopes to offer patients the chance to participate in clinical trials, the research studies used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are effective.

North Arundel was acquired by the University of Maryland Medical System last year and hospital staff said they plan to increase their limited involvement in clinical trials as part of the University's Greenebaum Cancer Center.

"We want our patients to have the latest of care," said DeLuca, who is also chair of the hospital's 29-member Cancer Committee. In time, North Arundel officials hope, the cancer center will attract patients from across the Baltimore region.

Designed by the national architectural firm of Cannon Design, which has a Baltimore office, the center will include medical offices and a reception area. But one of its unique features will be a "healing garden" for patients and visitors.

The chemotherapy suites will overlook the garden, giving cancer patients a lush and tranquil view that hospital staff believe will create an environment of healing.

"Everybody understands how difficult it is to sit there with nothing to focus on but the chemo running through their veins," Roach said. "We want the center to be a place of comfort for patients and their families."

Talk of a free-standing cancer center began about three years ago, when the hospital sought accreditation from the American College of Surgeons for its cancer care and its efforts to promote education, awareness and early cancer detection. It received the three-year accreditation in 1999 and spent the last year designing the center.

"It's a prestigious honor and it says what you're doing in cancer care is state-of-the-art and meeting the needs of the community," said DeLuca, who has been affiliated with North Arundel for 15 years.

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