Southcoast receives approval to provide radiation therapy and plans to open comprehensive cancer center in Fairhaven Southcoast commits $375,000 over five years to community outreach.

Southcoast Health System today announced plans to create a comprehensive center for the treatment of cancer and blood diseases in Fairhaven to address the growing need for state-of-the-art cancer services in an area of the South Coast region that currently has none.
      
Southcoast has received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for a radiation therapy unit. The approval includes a five-year commitment by Southcoast to provide more than $375,000 for community outreach and cancer prevention programs.
 
“Southcoast is taking proactive steps to meet the growing need for advanced, comprehensive cancer prevention and treatment in our region,” said John B. Day, President & CEO of Southcoast Health System. “The new comprehensive cancer center in Fairhaven will ensure coordinated, high-quality, streamlined care for cancer patients and their families. The addition of state-of-the-art radiation therapy located in the greater New Bedford and greater Wareham regions further solidifies our commitment to improving access to vital services for the entire South Coast region.”
      
The new center in Fairhaven will complement the well-established and highly accredited medical oncology program, which diagnoses the most number of cancer patients in the region. The cancer center will be located at 200 Mill Road and will meet the growing needs of the communities and provide regionally coordinated and comprehensive cancer management services to the residents of the South Coast region. The site will have ample parking and be easily accessible from routes I-195 and 240.
      
“Southcoast’s new center will improve access to oncology services in a region that is currently underserved and will reduce delays for thousands of patients,” said Ronald B. Goodspeed, MD, MPH, President of Southcoast Hospitals Group. “The inclusion of high-level technology will best meet the needs of the broadest diagnostic categories of cancer patients while providing the most current safety features.”

Comprehensive Cancer Services
      
Southcoast has an excellent, well-established medical oncology program and offers all other key elements of a comprehensive cancer service, including outpatient chemotherapy, inpatient and surgical services, advanced diagnostic capability, ancillary and support services for patients and families. In 2006 the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) granted Southcoast Health System’s Oncology Program with its highest award - a system-wide, three-year approval with commendation. The CoC states that its approval assures patients that they do not need to travel great distances from home to receive quality care. [http://www.facs.org/cancer/publicapproval.html]
      
“Radiation therapy is the remaining component to round out a truly comprehensive program to respond to cancer care needs across our region,” said Herbert Hansen, MD, an oncologist at Southcoast Hospitals Group.
      
“Currently there are no comprehensive cancer services in the eastern South Coast region. Radiation treatments are usually continuous over days or weeks and the commute can be exhausting and burdensome for patients and their families,” Dr. Hansen said. “Southcoast diagnoses the highest amount of cancer cases in the region and it is our obligation to meet community need, respond to this chronic disease with the full spectrum of care.”
      
According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer and is part of the main treatment for some types of cancer, such as cancers of the head and neck, bladder, lung and Hodgkin’s disease. Many times radiation treatment is combined w ith surgery and/or chemotherapy. A linear accelerator is used to give external radiation therapy. Radiation Therapy technology has advanced with better ability to control both radiation dosing and target tumor location.

The new linear accelerator that Southcoast will purchase offers the latest and most advanced technology in radiation therapy - a combination of real-time image guidance in radiotherapy (IGRT) and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This technology - coupled with state-of-the-art diagnostic services such as a Positron Emission Therapy
(PET) scanner, a key component in accurate cancer care - will make this center the region’s most advanced cancer program.
 
Southcoast’s oncology services currently offered in the Dartmouth area will be moved to the new location in Fairhaven. Built from the ground-up, the project will have special emphasis on the environment of care in addition to the high-level of technology and quality services. It is expected to open in 2010.
      
Ellen Banach, Senior Vice President of Strategic Services, said the new center will offer patients and their families a peaceful and nurturing environment in addition to the latest advanced technology and health care services.
      
“Southcoast will incorporate the best practices and services covering all aspects of patient care. It will be the only cancer center east of New Bedford that offers unified care in one location. We will also have a dedicated nurse referred to as a ‘patient navigator’ to help guide patients through their treatment from diagnosis to recovery,” Banach said.

Community Outreach and Cancer Prevention Programs
      
Southcoast has consistently provided staff and resources to identify and address public health problems. This includes concerted efforts to prevent diseases such as cancer and provide screenings to identify these diseases at their earliest and most curable stages.
      
As part of the project, Southcoast will also commit $375,000 to fund a community outreach and cancer prevention program. The funding will support the recruitment of paid Community Health Workers, based on the model created by DPH, to conduct education and arrange screenings in underserved communities. Committing approximately $75,000 annually over a five-year period, Southcoast will work through its established community outreach partners and Greater New Bedford COAST to fund mini-grants in support of local agencies that are currently doing health outreach or related work. This initiative is designed to build greater capacity for health outreach in the greater New Bedford and Wareham communities.
      
“Though our initial focus will be cancer screening and education, this network will also be useful for other health education and prevention initiatives,” said Jim Rattray, Vice President of Marketing & Public Affairs for Southcoast Health System. “The health workers will be recruited by consulting with leaders in the African-American, Portuguese, Hispanic, Mayan, Brazilian, Cape Verdean and other under-served populations.”
      
Community Need
      
The need for this additional radiation therapy unit was clearly established by the DPH through its Determination of Need analysis and recommendations to the Massachusetts Public Health Council.
      
The population for St. Luke’s and Tobey hospitals’ primary service area has a cancer incidence rate of 640 incidences per 1,000 people as compared to the state average of 515.4 incidences per 1,000 people for the years 2000 through 2004. 
      
“Southcoast continually works to build upon the advanced health care services we offer at our hospitals and other facilities to meet the growing and diverse needs of those who depend upon us,” Day said.