New cancer center planned

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 7, 2010

An architect’s rendering of the new 21st Century Oncology Center.

21st Century Oncology plans to begin construction of a 7,420-square foot cancer treatment facility on the campus of Andalusia Regional Hospital.
Hospital CEO Mark Dooley confirmed yesterday that the treatment center has gotten the go-ahead.
“We think it’s great that on the day of the local Relay for Life, we can announce that we are bringing this service here that we’ve never offered before,” Dooley said.
Relay for Life is a community-wide fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
“The hospital is leasing land to 21st Century Oncology adjacent to Dr. Butler’s office for the building,” Dooley said. “They’ve gotten their plan approved and it’s being overnighted to the city for a building permit. The next step will be construction bids, and they should be in construction by the first of July.”
The facility will include 1,200-square feet to house a new linear accelerator, which is the equipment used for radiation therapy. Dooley estimated that that equipment alone puts the project in the $2 million range.
“The plan includes room to add a second radiation vault if needed,” he said.
Dooley also announced that Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group is moving its services previously offered in Opp to Andalusia. Dooley said the group will occupy a new medical office planned across South Three Notch Street from the hospital and being built by local investors.
“Both currently operate in Opp,” Dooley said.
Dr. Hejal Patel, the radiation oncologist currently serving patients at 21st Century Oncology’s Opp office, will work out of the new facility when it opens.
Dooley said 21st Century Oncology designed the new building to blend with the hospital campus. The hospital will still be visible from South Three Notch even with the single-story cancer facility located in front of it.
“They’re doing a blue awning and designing the exterior to match the hospital’s.”
Dooley said the combination of the oncology treatment center and the oncology group practicing here allows the hospital to fill a missing niche.
“My goal for our hospital is to be seen by neighboring smaller hospitals in our area as a regional referral site,” he said. “This is a specialty we needed to have here to do that.”
When Dr. Tara Goodsen Harden joins Dr. Tim Day and Dr. Ashton Wells in the practice of general surgery this year, Dooley said he expects breast cancer patients to feel more comfortable having their surgery locally.
“A lot of the patients who go out of town do so because they feel more comfortable with a female surgeon,” he said.
21st Century Oncology, Inc. is a developer and operator of radiation therapy centers. These centers, which are freestanding and hospital-based, provide a full spectrum of radiation therapy services to cancer patients. The national company currently offers treatment in this area Opp, Dothan, Crestview, Destin and Ft. Walton Beach.
Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group is based in Pensacola and provides services in Pensacola, Milton, Destin, Crestview and Opp.
Dr. Mark S. Boatright, who currently sees patients in Opp, will be part of the Andalusia office.