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Posted October 10, 2012 | comments 2 Comments

Public stays silent on proposed cancer center

Speakers, audience at hearing for planned Valley Health facility consisted of physicians, staff

By Sally Voth

No one from the public attended a hearing Wednesday at Handley Library for a proposed Valley Health cancer center.

The audience and speakers consisted of physicians and Valley Health staff.

Leonard Varmette, project review analyst with the Virginia Department of Health's Division of Certificate of Public Need, said a staff report is due Oct. 19. That report will provide a recommendation to Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley.

Valley Health hopes to build a $34.7 million, 47,000-square-foot facility near the wellness and diagnostics centers on its Winchester Medical Center campus, CEO Mark H. Merill said last week.

"It would be an enhancement of services to include medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology and support [under one roof]," he said.

The center would have various other features, including space for palliative care, an American Cancer Society presence and a healing garden, Suanne Thurman-Gersdorf, Valley Health Corporate Service Lines vice president, said during the hearing.

As the former executive director for oncology and surgery, Thurman-Gersdorf was actively involved in planning the center.

"These services will enhance the patient experience and will provide care that otherwise might not be available locally," Thurman-Gersdorf said.

Radiation oncologist Dr. Bruce Flax said he has worked at Winchester Medical Center since 1993, said the physical plant hasn't kept up with the quality of care, which has remained strong.

"Patient care spaces have become inadequate," he said. "Multiple services will once again be available under one roof [at the proposed center]. The proposed improvement will be much more conducive to patient and family healing."

Varmette seemed optimistic about the health system's odds of getting commissioner approval.

"To be very, very honest, I know of no opposition to this project," he said.

After the hearing, Varmette said Remley's decision is due Dec. 10, at the latest.

"In cases where there's no competition or there are no adverse recommendations, we would have a certificate probably much earlier than that," he said.

Varmette said it's possible another health organization in the Richmond area would want to send a letter of opposition to the health department. He said the public can voice opinions on the request up to the time the commissioner makes her decision.

Medical oncologist Dr. Rich Ingram, co-medical director of the oncology service line, also has been involved in planning the cancer center.

"This will allow us to coordinate and facilitate things from diagnostic services to consultative services to therapy and then to survivorship," he said after the public hearing. "We hope from a service line standpoint that we can spill out services to our other hospitals, specifically survivorship and continuity of care for our serving providers.

"We have all of the medical skills set and technology of a modern, comprehensive cancer center that's very cutting-edge. It just happens to be in different silos across campus as the campus grew."

Thurman-Gersdorf said the team thinks the final product will be "extraordinary" for patients and the community.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137  ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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