Comprising ‘the best things’ from around the country, new patient-centered cancer center prepares to open

The outside of Dixie Regional Medical Center's new Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George. The tile on the outside is a representation of a human DNA sequence, St. George, Utah, Sept. 5, 2018 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George is prepared to begin treating patients at its new Dixie Regional Medical Center River Road location, offering spacious rooms, new equipment and a patient-centered design.

Seats in the infusion center of the new Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George look out over what will soon be a garden, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Charity Baumann, courtesy of Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George News

Patients can begin receiving treatment at the new cancer center, located at 1380 E. Medical Center Drive, starting Jan. 7. Most of the equipment and administrative offices have already been moved, and the new precision genomic labs are already in use.

The cancer center has been designed to be an “oncology home,” where health care providers can support patients throughout their entire cancer journey, from diagnosis and treatment to either curing the disease or helping them through the hospice and palliative care process.

“This has been our opportunity to really be able to start anew and start fresh in regards to how we see the patient’s journey with cancer,” said Dr. Derrick Haslem, medical director for medical oncology. “The whole building is designed with the patient in mind.”

As opposed to the cancer center’s current location on 400 East, where radiation oncology and medical oncology have different staircases and entrances and the genomics labs are in separate buildings, the new Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George will have everything in one convenient location in a new building at the River Road campus.

All cancer treatment will take place in the new building: medical and radiation oncology, immuno-oncology, outpatient radiology, the infusion clinic, PET and CT scans, laboratories and the Supportive Care Clinic.

Nurse stations in the infusion center of the new Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Charity Baumann, courtesy of Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George News

Any inpatient care or surgery will continue to take place in the main hospital building on River Road, which is now just a short walk away for providers compared to the 2-mile journey they had to make before.

The cancer center is also just across the parking lot from a Jubilee Home, where patients and their families coming from out of town can stay for free while receiving treatment.

It takes a village

Cancer center medical directors were involved in every step of the planning process for the new center, visiting cancer centers around the country and using what they learned to design the building.

Dr. Craig Donaldson, medical director for radiation oncology, said they took “the best things we found” into consideration, always keeping patients in mind.

“Everything was designed around taking care of our patients efficiently, making it easier for them and delivering a standard of care that’s the best care they can get,” Donaldson said.

The center was designed so that care can revolve around the patient, allowing them to stay in one room for every possible step of the process. Staff will now go to the patient for taking lab samples, scheduling and doctor visits, so the patient can rest instead of relocating. The new setup is more efficient for doctors and nurses as well, since they can provide treatment without having to move papers and equipment.

The laboratory in the new cancer center at Dixie Regional Medical Center allows patients to see scientists working, St. George, Utah, Sept. 5, 2018 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Valet parking will be provided and radiation oncology was put on the first floor, so patients won’t have to go far for treatment. Additionally, an elevator provides quick back-end access to medical oncology on the second floor so patients can be easily moved back and forth if necessary.

Communications Director Terri Draper said the new cancer center wouldn’t have been possible this quickly without the support of the community who will be served by it.

“Since 2015, Intermountain’s Foundation at Dixie Regional has raised more than $7 million for cancer programs, including widespread community support through two Jubilee of Tree events,” Draper said. “That has helped us do more, and more quickly, than we would have been able to do otherwise.”

The move to the new center has increased patient capacity and allowed the hospital to acquire state-of-the-art radiology equipment, including new applications for their high dose rate brachytherapy applicator and an additional linear accelerator so two patients can receive radiation therapy at once, a benefit that your average person may not recognize but which Donaldson said is a real boon to the center.

“You just don’t find a linear accelerator of this capability in a small community like this,” Donaldson said. “From my point of view as a physician, I have all the tools I need to deliver care like I would at any major cancer center throughout the country.”

In the infusion center, patients will receive the latest in treatments of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies and clinical trials. The new center can now treat up to 31 patients at a time in the spacious interior, which has more room for family and visitors and has a large porch and windows that overlook what will soon be a new LiVe Well garden.

Read more: DRMC to break ground on Legacy Plaza to honor health care history, heroes of Southern Utah

The new center will also expand supportive care services. The Supportive Care Clinic offers patients a place to go to be treated for side effects of cancer and chemotherapy. Instead of having to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital, patients can walk into the clinic and be treated by cancer center staff.

The center also brings the three precision genomics labs to the same building. Precision genomics allows scientists to test patients’ cancer cells, looking at their individual genes to identify targeted treatment options based on their specific makeup.

One lab was designed with windows so patients and clinicians can watch as scientists work to find treatments – and scientists can see the people who are benefiting from their work.

“What this building does is it brings those three groups together so scientists come walking through the same door as patients and clinicians,” Haslem said, adding that he believes this setup will inspire the scientists to work even harder at finding the next best treatment.

But beyond that, he said, “we hope more than anything else is that patients are inspired and have hope that there is going to be a brighter tomorrow.”

Written by MIKAYLA SHOUP, St. George News.

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