Cancer care is about individuals, something Edward Smink, executive director of Mission and Ministry of St. Catherine Hospital, knows all too well.
Smink reflected on his mother’s unwanted diagnosis of bilateral breast cancer during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Heartland Cancer Center on Tuesday.
“I remember the experience my mother had when the doctor told her she had bilateral breast cancer. After a brief silence, the doctor reassured her and asked if she had any questions.
“Silence. Moments felt like hours passed away, passed as my mother passed into the nether world of incomprehension. Explanations faded into oblivion as the word ‘cancer’ silenced all that she could hear,” Smink recalled. “Life seemed to flash before her eyes. A life of illness and pain. A life of disfigurement. A life possibly cut short. One that felt wrenched from her grasp … too many questions emerged all at once. Anxiety of not surviving the treatments, the possibility of dying.
“Cancer care is about individuals, it’s about the story that they bring, and it’s about health care workers responding to their needs,” Smink said.
Scott Taylor, CEO of St. Catherine Hospital, told the crowd gathered for the ceremony that the facility represents an advancement in health care not just for Garden City residents, but for western Kansas.
“Our partnership between Centura Health, St. Catherine Hospital and Central Care Cancer Center, which has come together to be called ‘Heartland Cancer Center,’ assures the residents of Garden City and all of western Kansas convenient access to state-of-the-art cancer care for the decades to come,” Taylor said. “The building that we are celebrating serves as a testament to Heartland Cancer Center’s dedication to bringing the latest approaches to cancer diagnosis and therapy to all of western Kansas. It will assure that the care is provided in a nurturing and healing environment, placing a high premium on the patient’s comfort and experience.”
Taylor added that the building will house many services including oncology specialists, nursing, dietary, pharmacy, ministerial, finance, survivorship, and after-care support, which are necessary to meet a patient’s global needs.
“It serves as a source of pride for Garden City and for southwest Kansas that state-of-the-art care is available close to home,” Taylor said. “(Patients) don’t have to sacrifice the latest in clinical trials and treatments because they choose to live in western Kansas.”
Taylor believes the expansion will have a huge effect on Garden City.
“From the care perspective, which is the most important side, residents of Garden City and western Kansas won’t have to travel for state-of-the-art cancer care. They can get the care that they need from people they know, and can have their friends and their family by their side during their care,” Taylor said.
Heartland Cancer Center is set to bring in the latest services and facilities for cancer care, including a Linear Accelerator, or TrueBeam, which can both image tumors with high precision and deliver high energy treatment in a way that minimizes the amount of radiation delivered to healthy tissue.
“The TrueBeam, that’s very exciting because it is the latest and greatest in radiation oncology. Being able to provide really state-of-the-art radiation oncology is very exciting,” Director of Heartland Cancer Center Becky Troyer said.
Space has been restricted, Troyer said, which has limited the services available in the present facility.
“Now we’ll be able to provide a more comfortable environment, which I think will make all the difference,” she said. “We’ll also be able to house supportive services here in the cancer center, which right now are provided in the hospital; things like social work, dietary services will actually be here, on site, so our patients won’t have to go across the street, or anywhere. It’s all under one roof.”
More employees will be hired eventually, but for now that’s not a top priority.
“Obviously we have to get through the construction phase and see where it leads us,” Troyer said, “but it absolutely will be something we look at in the future.”
The number of employees hired will depend on the level of services the cancer center ends up offering.
“At a rough estimate, we’ll probably add 20 percent more employees, But just even adding the support services here is also going to create jobs at the hospital,” Troyer said.
St. Catherine Hospital will own 51 percent of Heartland Cancer Center and Central Care Cancer Center will own the other 49 percent. Heartland Cancer Center will be managed by a joint board that includes members from each entity.
The cancer center, located on the south side of the hospital campus, will expand out, then upward, on the west side of the cancer center’s present building, making it a two-story facility. The multimillion-dollar expansion will take nearly a year to complete.
“We estimate a little over a year (for completion), in terms of construction and it’ll probably take us another 60 days to finish the engineering diagrams, etc. Less than a year and a half, and we’ll be ready to go.” Taylor said.