Work begins on new $5M cancer center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett summed up the groundbreaking ceremony for a new cancer center well.

“This is a red letter day,” he said. “No family I know of has not been touched by cancer.”

The new center is another important step in Andalusia Regional Hospital’s vision of being a regional health care provider. And with this step, he said, “the community has won.”

Indeed a good representation of the community braved extreme heat for the groundbreaking of the new, 10,000 square foot facility on the campus of ARH. The hospital is partnering with 21st Century Oncology in the development of the new comprehensive cancer center slated to open in Andalusia next summer.

“We are fortunate to have a partner in 21st Century Oncology who believes in this project and what it will mean to our community as much as we do,” ARH CEO Mark Dooley said. “Upon completion, the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Andalusia will occupy more than 10,000 square feet with the potential to expand by over 2,000 square feet with the addition of a second linear accelerator as the patient base grows.”

He estimated that the project will represent a $5 million investment in the community.

“You will notice the name of the center is Comprehensive Cancer Center of Andalusia,” he said. “The word comprehensive is intentionally used to indicate that most if not all cancer treatment services that one may need will be located right here in Andalusia. The new center itself will house a linear accelerator to provide radiation therapy and the Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group from Pensacola will come to Andalusia to provide chemotherapy and other infusion services.”

Dr. Hejal Patel of 21st Century Oncology said he hopes to expand the services offered locally to include enrollment in research protocols. Regardless, he said, patients will be treated like family when they walk through the doors. Patel said staff members will celebrate successes with patients and their families, “and provide broad shoulders to cry on when the news is not so good.”

The hospital also is negotiating with vendors to provide PET scanning here, Dooley said. PET scanning is an imaging technology that is used to detect cancer, determine whether cancer has spread, and assess the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

“I hope to be able to announce more about that service in the near future,” Dooley said.

Others on hand for the ceremony included members of the hospital board of trustees Terry Powell, Joe Bratton, Sammy Glover, Wem Mellown, Dr. Angelo Agro, and Dr. Charles Eldridge; medical staff president Dr. Gabrielle Baldwin; staff from 21st Century Oncology’s centers in Dothan and Opp; and Dr. Mark Boatwright and staff from the Sacred Heart Medical Oncology group.

Representatives of ARH, 21st Century Oncology and Sacred Heart Medical Oncology were on hand Monday. | Michele Gerlach/Star-News