Ocean Medical Center will soon be home to a new, 22,000 square foot cancer center that hospital officials say will merge a team approach that has been implemented over the past year with a treatment area that makes care more convenient and calming for patients.
“Most of the patients want their cancer care close to home,” said Dr. Mark Krasna, medical director of Meridian Cancer Care. “The first step, really, was just building a program in terms of getting the right people and the right teams in place.”
While Meridian Health, the hospital’s owner, is beginning the process of constructing the in-house cancer center and an additional off-campus addition, the real work started well in advance when the company began hiring new physicians and implementing a team approach to cancer care. Patients, under the new system, are matched with a Nurse Navigator who guides them through doctor visits, tests and treatments, and the expanded team of physicians work as one unit. Recent additions to the team, Krasna said, include physicians specializing in colorectal oncology, urology oncology, as well as surgeons.
“They’re now, together, partnering with the radiation oncologists and the medical oncologists who have been working in this community for more than 20 years,” said Krasna. “Before any patient gets treatment, the team arrives at a conclusion as to the next step.”
The hospital has also invested in new technology, including the TrueBeam Accelerator, an image-guided radiation therapy tool that kills cancer cells while protecting the healthy tissue that surround them. Ocean Medical Center will be the first of all Meridian’s cancer centers to have the device.
Dean Lin, Ocean Medical Center’s President, said advances in technology, protocols and approaches to treating cancer led to the hospital’s renewed focus and a system-wide investment of about $133 million to create cancer centers at a number of its hospitals. Overall, there will be a $23 million investment specifically at Ocean Medical Center.
“Cancer care has improved dramatically over the past decade,” Lin said. “There really is no need to go to the big city hospitals given our program.”
Ocean Medical Center will soon add a thoracic surgeon to its expanding ranks.
“They’ve been trained in the big cities but they choose to live here,” said Lin.
“We now have all the technology, some of it even better, than the MD Andersons or the Sloan Ketterings,” said Krasna.
The renovation will convert the hospital’s former physical therapy suite into an infusion area and turn the former outpatient ambulatory area into the sprawling cancer center. A separate entrance to the cancer center will be built on the opposite side of the existing hospital parking lot. For patients receiving chemotherapy, Lin said there will be “tremendous” amounts of natural light and space, plus room to accommodate family members and friends.
“It can’t be fun getting chemotherapy, but we want to make it as good as we can,” said Krasna, who said his team is second to none.
“I personally had a scare where I thought I had cancer, and I went to my team,” he said.