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Business North - Around The Region - Duluth & Superior Newspaper
Ashland MMC, Essentia to break ground on cancer center this month
Cancer patients in Ashland will no longer have to travel 100 miles each way for treatment thanks to a partnership and a soon-to-be-constructed medical facility.
In late January, Ashland Memorial Medical Center and Duluth-based Essentia Health unveiled plans for a new $12 million cancer treatment center to be located on the MMC campus.
Jason Douglas, CEO of MMC, said plans for a locally based cancer treatment center had been two years in the making. Douglas’ predecessor, Dan Hymans, who retired last year, initiated talks with Essentia to get the project off the ground.
“We have done extensive research, and the need for additional services, especially radiation oncology, is significant,” Douglas said in a formal announcement. “We’ve talked with local physicians and everyone agrees that this investment will greatly benefit cancer patients from our region who will no longer have to drive hundreds of miles to get the services they need.”
The new facility, which will be named the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center, will provide a number of treatment options and services for patients including infusion therapy, radiation therapy and clinical trials as well as the STAR Cancer Rehabilitation Program, a survivorship program and educational resource center.
The partnership is not unlike other collaborative healthcare efforts that are taking place throughout the nation as healthcare costs have spiraled, said Mike Metcalf, Essentia’s executive vice president of clinic operations. He added, however, that it was somewhat new to Essentia to form a partnership with an independent provider. Better service to patients is the healthcare network’s goal.
“Our market goes all the way to the U.P.,” said Metcalf, referring to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He added that radiation patients often require lengthy treatments and need options closer to home.
Janet Novak of Mellen recently completed cancer treatments in Duluth and knows well the hardship that driving so far for treatment imposes. She described the long drive as “stressful” and said that if treatment were available closer to home, it would have allowed her to continue working through at least some of her therapy.
“It would’ve taken a lot of the stress out of it,” Novak said.
Patient accessibility led to the partnership, but there could be financial benefits as well. Both partners will receive a 50/50 split of any revenues generated by the cancer center.
According to information from MMC, the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center will be directed by Mihailo Lalich M.D., who has been providing cancer care in Ashland, Hayward and Spooner for the past year. Peter Kebbekus, M.D., and Hillary Lambert, N.P., a team of Duluth-based radiation oncologists, also will be part of the new cancer center staff. Douglas also anticipates the new center will result in the creation of additional support staff and nursing positions.
The new facility will be located adjacent to MMC and the Essentia Health -Ashland Clinic. Current timelines call for a groundbreaking this month with completion expected in the fall of 2015. Boldt Construction has been named contractor for the project.
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