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The Journal Gazette

  • Eric Westgerdes, left, project manager with Weigand Construction, and Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh stand in the Parkview Cancer Institute on Wednesday.(Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette)

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

Cancer Institute set to fill rising demand

Tour shows progress on Parkview facility

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Construction is on schedule for the $101 million Parkview Cancer Institute, officials said Wednesday. The 200,000-square-foot facility on Parkview Health's north campus is expected to welcome its first patients June 5.

The opening is coming none too soon, according to officials.

Parkview treated about 1,500 cancer patients annually when the project was unveiled in May 2015. That number is now pushing 2,300 and could reach 2,500 before the institute opens, said Scott James, the cancer center's chief operating officer.

As Parkview ramps up its oncology staff, it has attracted more cancer patients, roughly doubling the number of patients who receive chemotherapy infusions there daily, James said. He has filled 43 oncology positions already and has four still open.

James and Eric Westgerdes, project manager for Weigand Construction, led a tour of the five-floor facility, showing the work in progress to half a dozen media members and other guests.

Parkview's cancer patients will have access to doctors' appointments, testing equipment, chemotherapy treatments, nutrition counseling, palliative care and more all in one location, spokesman Eric Clabaugh said.

“It's a model of care unlike anything in the region,” he added.

Inside the Cancer Institute, visitors and work crews walk along bare concrete floors under ceilings criss-crossed by heating, cooling and ventilation ducts. At the height of construction activity, about 130 workers were on site each day, Westgerdes said. The count is now about 100 daily.

The saving grace on the windy Wednesday was that the building is fully enclosed and it was a balmy 72 degrees inside.

The tour included one of nine pods, where caregivers of varied specialties will do paperwork. James said having staffers in one place allows faster communication, especially when a patient in one of the surrounding treatment rooms has a question about an upcoming surgery or dietary recommendations.

The caregiver meeting with that patient can simply open the door and ask the colleague best able to provide an answer, he said. Each of the pods will be dedicated to a specific cancer, such as breast, brain or colon.

Another room in the cancer center will house a 3.0T MRI machine, which creates the highest-quality images currently available. It will be Parkview's most advanced magnetic resonance imaging equipment, James said.

The chemotherapy infusion area includes 48 bays in a mix of private, semi-private and group rooms. The design allows patients who've struck up friendships to receive treatment together.

Parkview Health CEO Mike Packnett, whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, devoted the most attention to the infusion area, James said. Patients receiving treatment can spend one to eight hours at a time there.

Before the Cancer Institute's groundbreaking, Parkview averaged about 25 chemotherapy patients a day, James said. Now, that number has increased to about 50, he said. They receive treatment in an interim space outfitted with 24 bays.

Parkview executives visited other cancer centers to gather ideas that could be included in their facility's design. Takeaways include an outdoor patio off an upper floor and a cafeteria menu that includes smoothies and milkshakes in addition to hot and cold meals.

Perhaps the highlight of the layout is a four-story indoor garden which, like everything else, is still under construction.

“Much of this allows us to provide a healing environment,” Clabaugh said, adding that the design includes abundant natural light.

Inside the lobby, James pointed out where office space, gift shop, salon and survivors' areas will be.

“The goal is to treat this more like a hotel and have concierge service as you check in,” he said, adding that the staff will escort patients to exam areas.

“The goal,” he added, “is to wrap our arms around the patient.”

sslater@jg.net