Dr. Kyle Colvett, with the Oncology Department at Johnson City Medical Center, shows the media and guest a treatment room with equipment that is two years old. (Lee Talbert/Photo Editor)
Johnson City Medical Center will soon have a new radiation oncology center that hospital leaders say will provide much-needed services to cancer patients throughout the region.
The Mountain States Foundation announced a $3.5 million public fundraising drive Thursday to top off the $15 million needed to complete the project, which will more than double the size of the hospital’s current cancer center.
Dr. Kyle Colvett, medical director of JCMC’s radiation therapy center, said the current facility is cramped, outdated and badly in need of replacement.
“This facility opened in 1988, so 25 years ago, and we’ve remodeled a few times, we’ve painted exam rooms and done what we could, but we really have cobbled together a patient experience that is not what it should be,” he said.
Since the mid-1990s, Colvett said the oncology center’s patient volume has increased from 12 patients per day to nearly 80, overtaxing the four functional exam rooms and putting a strain on the staff and facilities.
The new oncology center, in the lower level of the medical center’s new surgery tower, will be more spacious, better lit and have amenities to make patients more comfortable while undergoing treatment.
The project will add a medical library for patients, a chapel and a separate waiting area and entrance for children.
“We treat a lot of children with cancer as part of our affiliation with St. Jude, and we’re the only hospital in the region that takes care of children’s cancers,” Colvett said. “Right now, we would have a 10-year-old sitting right next to a 70-year-old in the waiting room, so once this is finished we’ll have space that’s children dedicated and child friendly.”
A large portion of the millions of dollars still left to be raised will go to purchasing a new linear accelerator to replace a 13-year-old machine.
The new equipment will allow doctors to better target cancerous cells with a focused beam of radiation, which will reduce treatment time and side effects for some patients.
“The linear accelerator is the backbone machine of most of the kind of radiation treatments we do,” Colvett said. “That technology has changed over the years. We now have greater ability to provide precise radiation treatment and ways of seeing and treating tumors that was impossible in times past.”
Last year, the Mountain States Foundation committed to raise $7 million of the project’s costs.
Nearly half of that pledge has already been met by the organization’s philanthropic efforts, and the group now plans to turn to the public to raise the remaining $3.5 million, capital campaign chair Clarinda James said.
“Several public events will be or have been dedicated to the radiation oncology campaign,” Jeanes said. “The past dragon boat race funded $200,000, and we’re hoping the dragon boat race this weekend at Winged Deer Park will add to this total.”
The Mountain States Foundation is a charitable organization linked to Mountain States Health Alliance that provides monetary support to a number of health-related causes in the region.