Cancer center open

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dr. Hejal Patel talks to patient Kim Scheffer as he undergoes treatment Tuesday. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

The focus is on the patient at the 21st Century Oncology Center.

The missive is evident in the “little things” like the way the receptionist whisks patients to the separate men’s and women’s dressing and waiting rooms and how every patient is greeted by name.

And it was with that goal in mind that Dr. Hejal Patel and Dr. Mark Boatwright, the physicians behind the center, wanted to bring services to Andalusia after outgrowing their Opp location.

The new center houses a linear accelerator to provide radiation therapy, and the Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group from Pensacola, Fla., provides chemotherapy and other infusion services.

Additionally, the center uses a Cone Beam CT guidance machine, which is able to deliver radiation within a millimeter of what needs to be treated, Patel said.

“Covington County has gotten an upgrade in cancer treatment services,” he said. “The equipment we use here in Andalusia is the same the equipment used at UAB, Montgomery and Pensacola.

“Patients don’t have to travel outside of here to get treatment,” he said. “They can stay here at home, which I think, makes a tremendous difference.

“Our focus has always been on the patient, but we really honed in on how to make the treatment the best experience it can be, considering. To do, we focus on all the little things.”

The concept behind the center is simple – treatment at one location. On one side of the building, Patel and the staff handles the radiation therapy. On the other side, Boatwright provides chemotherapy and other infusion services.

“We work side-by-side,” Patel said of Boatwright. “One of the biggest complaints patients have is about how their doctors don’t communicate between one another. That’s not the case here. We talk about our patients together. We are very connected and are on the same page as far as treatment goes. We work using a team approach.

“As a patient, do not worry about transmitting information between doctors here, that’s our job,” he said.

The 10,000 square-foot facility sits on the campus of Andalusia Regional Hospital and was designed with growth in mind.

“We hope to one day have the need to expand,” Patel said. Already, the group’s patient load has nearly doubled. On Tuesday, more than 20 patients were scheduled for radiation treatment.

Patel said there is also a plan to begin a community outreach program that includes screening events.

A grand opening ceremony and open house will be held Nov. 9 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

“And we invite everyone to come out and see what we do here,” Patel said.