By KENDRA GRAVELLE

 

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — After over a year of renovation, South County Hospital unveiled its newly renovated cancer center last month.

Although cancer care has always been offered at South County Hospital, the new space provides a more convenient setting for patients to receive the care they need.

“This organization has been diagnosing and treating cancer for decades,” said Martha Murphy, manager of community relations at the hospital. “But [the new cancer center] has made it possible to meet with patients in a new, beautiful space.”

The cancer center was built into South County Hospital’s Read Wing. While the wing had housed some of the cancer services provided previously, there had been space there that was being used only for storage and that, it was determined, could be better used for other purposes.

Before the renovation, South County Hospital’s three medical oncologists had been located across the street, at 85 Kenyon Ave.

“So patients might have had to go there to see their medical oncologists and then drive or walk across the street to get their chemotherapy or get lab work done,” Murphy explained. “It was not convenient for families to have the services spread out so far.”

Having oncologists in the same building as other cancer services is ideal for both patients and medical providers, Murphy added.

“Now, when a patient goes to see the medical oncologist, it’s to Read 1, and when they go for chemotherapy, it’s Read 1, and when they go for a consultation with a surgeon or a radiation oncologist or a rehab specialist, it’s all on Read 1,” she said, “and it’s so nice. It makes so much more sense and really allows the delivery of the care to really be enhanced.”

The Read Wing underwent several changes to address both its form and its function, Murphy said. The cancer center’s design was based on input from Patient and Family Advisory Council on Cancer, oncology providers and architects who specialize in building cancer care facilities.

“Cancer patients also had a lot of input into the design and into what made a person feel comfortable when they were going through chemotherapy or when they were going to discuss treatment options,” Murphy said. “All of that went into creating this new space.”

She added that everything — from the colors of the walls to the window designs to the furnishings — were considered during the design phase.

While the number of medical providers at the cancer center hasn’t increased — there are three medical oncologist, two oncology nurse navigators and one board-certified pharmacist of oncology, among other staff — the hospital is now able to accommodate more patients than it had been able to previously.

“The medical oncologists here are always hoping that members of the community know that they’re here, that they have tremendous expertise, that they diagnose and treat cancer and have been for a long time,” Murphy said. “What they’re really hoping is that as awareness increases of how many cancers can be treated in this setting, combined with the incredible convenience of, when you are ill, not having to get on the highway and travel, it’s a real benefit.”

If a patient is diagnosed with a type of cancer the medical oncologists at South County Hospital don’t treat, the doctors are prepared to refer those patients to other providers.

“So, if someone has to go to Boston for, say, a tumor removal from the brain, because we don’t do that kind of tumor removal here, then they can still have radiation therapy here,” Murphy explained.

The cancer center includes nine exam rooms, an infusion therapy area, space for meetings, counseling and support groups, a conference room and an integrated services room. In addition to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical treatments, the center also has space for Reiki and massage therapy.

“It’s just a really special space,” Murphy said.

After the completion of a successful $6.5 million capital campaign — the hospital reached out to business owners and community members for donations to help fund the renovations — and a nearly 14-month-long renovation period, more than 200 people attended the Nov. 17 grand re-opening ceremony.

Among those who spoke during the grand-opening ceremony was Laura Adams, president of the Rhode Island Quality Institute and a breast cancer survivor who had been treated at South County Hospital.

“Miracle medicine lives here,” said Adams, who that week was celebrating five years of being cancer-free. “But there’s a power beyond medicine in the human connection that South County brings. I’m convinced of it.”

Adams lauded the hospital’s relationship-based care.

“They understand the connection to self, patients, care team and the community,” she added.

Murphy said that, since the cancer center opened last month, patients and their family members have raved about the new facility.

“The reaction to it has been just wonderful,” she said, “and this is really an environment that we believe people deserve.”

Lou Giancola, president of South County Health, said during the grand-reopening ceremony that by the end of the decade, more than 900 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Washington County annually.

“Most of those people can, and should, be able to receive care at their local community hospital rather than drive hours away,” he said. “Now they have that opportunity.”

E. W. Burman was the construction manager for this project