(Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
A cancer diagnosis can be one of the most harrowing experiences in a family’s life, but the physicians and staff at Wellmont Health System’s new Johnson City cancer institute hope to make the treatments that follow easier and more effective.
Health system officials and employees cut the ribbon Wednesday on the new 8,100-square-foot treatment facility, making way for the institute to move from its temporary offices on Wesley Street to the updated former shopping center suite on Marketplace Boulevard later this month.
“Our current office wasn’t really designed for our needs, but we realized we needed to be here when we started getting an influx of patients from Johnson City in our offices in Kingsport,” the practice’s administrator, Lisa Steadman, said during a tour of the institute’s new home.
The Wellmont’s original cancer institute opened in January 2013 to gauge the demand in Johnson City for the infusion services offered by the system’s oncologists.
Sue Lindenbusch, the cancer institute’s senior vice president, said the response to the office’s patient-centered care was strong, justifying the move to the expanded and updated offices, which should begin receiving patients on March 24.
“We’re convenient to where they live,” she said. “And we’re showing them that they don’t have to go any farther than right here for the best care.”
Donna Ferguson, a Johnson City resident and patient at the current office, said her treatment went beyond the chemotherapy drugs administered at the facility.
After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in 2006 to treat her breast cancer, the disease re-emerged last year in several of her body’s systems, including her bones and brain.
Ferguson was dismayed by her doctor’s prognosis, but was overjoyed a few months later when body and brain scans showed no signs of the previously detected masses.
“My doctor called it a remission, I called it a miracle,” she said. “They’re more than just caregivers here.”
The new office increases the four exam rooms offered at the Wesley Street location to six larger rooms with terminals connected to Wellmont’s electronic medical records system.
Instead of the five infusion bays at the current facility, patients at the new center will be able to choose from eight, each with its own television and heated, massaging recliner.
The new office also includes a kitchenette for patients, isolation areas for those especially susceptible to infections and a pharmacy where personnel will prepare chemotherapy drugs.
The rented suite adds to Wellmont’s presence in the former retail center behind Fuddruckers, facing the heavily trafficked State of Franklin Road, where its outpatient campus continues to grow.
“We’re continuing to expand, I think we’re taking over this shopping mall,” the system’s President and CEO, Denny DeNarvaez, joked. “Someone should tell the rest of these stores.”