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New cancer center, anniversary represent major Baptist milestones

By JOSHUA ROBERTS jroberts@paducahsun.com

P

ast, present and future will converge for Baptist Health Paducah in fall 2017 when the hospital records two milestones: its 50th anniversary of cancer care, and completion of a new, "unprecedented" for the region facility.

The hospital began treating cancer in 1967. In September 2015, it broke ground on a project designed to meet the needs of future decades -- the $18.3 million, two-story, 44,000-square foot Regional Cancer Care Center. The facility has an anticipated completion of next year.

In late August, hospital officials hosted a "topping out ceremony" at the construction site, near Broadway and 24th streets. "Topping out" is a construction tradition, celebrating the last beam being placed atop a structure before beginning interior work and the installation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Area residents, officials and hospital staffers signed the final beam leading up to the ceremony, which included an American flag and a small evergreen tree, symbolizing "hope and the birth of life," hospital officials said.

The new cancer care facility will feature private chemotherapy rooms, family space, labs and physician offices. Baptist is also renovating its H. Earl Feezor Regional Radiation Therapy Center, which encompasses about 12,000 square feet.

The new facilities will be centered on "healing and providing the same quality cancer care Baptist Health Paducah has offered since 1967," hospital president William A. Brown said.

"It has been designed to pull all of our services together in the most convenient and comfortable new environment for our patients and their families," he said. The project represents a "significant investment we're making on behalf of the community we're privileged to serve," he added.

The project was conceived 2 1/2 years ago.

"What we envision with this is people will be able to just drive up to the center, have their car valet parked, go into one door and see their doctor, get their labs, treatments, without ever leaving that part of the campus," Brown said.

"We felt there was a need to cohort services in one location for ease of access."

Baptist treats about 1,200 cancer patients per year through its nationally accredited, multi-disciplinary cancer services. About 110 outpatients receive radiation and chemotherapy daily.

Brown said Baptist officials implemented a thorough, deliberate process, inside and outside of the region, in planning the new cancer center. Numerous stakeholders were sought for input.

"We intuitively knew (convenience) would be important, but we didn't want to rely on just what we felt, so we did a series of focus groups, met with our oncology physicians, had a town hall meeting, and we got feedback from our own internal staff," Brown said.

"We also did multiple site visits to other cancer centers, particularly in the Midwest and South, to see what was the latest thinking on how the center should be put together. We did a lot of due diligence, and I'm positive we'll have a very exceptional program when the center is completed and opened."

Baptist spokeswoman Catherine Sivills said the new cancer center will be flexible enough to reflect advances in treatment practices in the futurwwe.

Brown, the hospital's president for nearly three years, said he came to Baptist after stints in major metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago. He was immediately impressed with the hospital's "high-end services."

The president cited the cancer center project, radiation center renovation, and Baptist's recent $3.1 million investment in new technology to shorten radiation treatments from "weeks to days" as a continuation of those services and proof of its "commitment to quality care."

"(The new cancer center) is a very exciting project, a fantastic addition to the community, and it's going to impact so many people in the community and region," Brown said.

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