COOS BAY — Bay Area Hospital and North Bend Medical Center broke ground Thursday on a $3 million project to create a comprehensive cancer treatment center.


Health-care dignitaries make an exploratory incision Thursday at the future site of an expanded cancer treatment center. From left: Jon Richards, Bay Area Health District board vice-chairman; general contractor Tom Harmon; hospital CEO Paul Janke; Dr. Cherry, medical oncologist; Dr. Steven Shimotakahara, North Bend Medical Center board chairman; architect Joe Slack; North Bend Medical Center CEO John Burles; and Dr. Bret Cook, medical oncologist.

“This move will ensure cancer patients can continue receiving first-rate treatment in their own community,” said Paul Janke, CEO of Bay Area Hospital. “It creates a one-stop shop for chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and support services.”

The publicly owned hospital will partner with the private clinic to add medical oncology to the hospital’s existing Radiation Treatment Center. Dr. Bret Cook and Dr. Cherry, who practice oncology and hematology at NBMC, will move their practice into new quarters in the expanded cancer center. A new chemotherapy facility there will serve patients previously served by separate programs at NBMC and the hospital.

“Providing integrated cancer treatment services will allow greater coordination of care and result in a more seamless feel for patients receiving their cancer care here,” said Dr. Mark Henderson, the hospital’s medical director of radiation oncology.

Basically, said Dr. Cook, “The more you can get it under one roof, the easier it is on the patient.”

In addition to the 8,000-square-foot expansion, eventual plans for the center include upgraded radiation therapy equipment. Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy equipment will integrate advanced imaging with high-dose, high-precision radiotherapy to produce state-of-the-art radiation treatments.

“Our goal with the new equipment is to provide a greater number of radiation oncology services locally, so that patients can receive as much of their care as possible close to home,” Dr. Henderson said.

The Radiation Therapy Center is a freestanding building on the hospital campus. Expanding it will be relatively easy, because the 1990 building was designed with growth in mind.

Completion is scheduled for May 2015. The new radiation equipment will follow.

The partnership between the hospital and the clinic is an innovative collaboration, created in response to evolving economic realities.

Dr. Cook explained that integrating cancer care will allow the oncology program to remain financially viable, ensuring continued availability of all cancer care in Coos County.

Without a local medical oncology program, patients would be forced to seek out-of-town care, making repeated trips while enduring nausea and other side-effects of chemotherapy. Their departure could weaken local surgical and radiation oncology programs.

“If we aren’t here, it’s a hardship on patients,” Dr. Cook said.

The new partnership averts that scenario and enhances cancer treatment overall, said Dr. Steven Shimotakahara, board chairman at North Bend Medical Center.

“We will have services that are second to none,” he said.

In addition to the clinic partnership, the hospital is engaged in talks with Oregon Health & Science University to expand the university’s role in local cancer care. The radiation therapy program already collaborates with OHSU’s Knight Cancer Center, where Henderson is an adjunct associate professor of radiation medicine. The collaboration could grow to include medical oncology.

Dr. Henderson, who left Indiana University’s faculty this year to join Bay Area Hospital, said affiliation with a university gives local cancer doctors access to valuable resources.

“I see this collaboration as an important part of providing the most up-to-date radiation oncology care to patients at our center,” he said.

The expansion encompasses other cancer services, including the addition of a Patient Navigator – a case manager who guides patients through the treatment process.

The architect for the project is Joe Slack of Coos Bay’s HGE Inc. Harmon Construction of Coos Bay is the general contractor and construction manager.