Hospital Brings Advanced Cancer Treatment Closer to Rural Areas

Article excerpt

GARDEN CITY, Kan. -- When Marcy Howard's father needed additional treatment for colon cancer, it looked like medical help might be halfway across the state in Enid, Okla.

Howard and her father live in Beaver, a small town in the Oklahoma Panhandle surrounded by other small towns and open fields. Advanced cancer treatment was hundreds of miles away.

Recognizing the lack of advanced cancer treatment in southwest Kansas, southeast Colorado, western Oklahoma and the northern tip of the Texas Panhandle, St. Catherine Hospital in this city of about 25,000 decided to build a cancer treatment center. The $4.5 million facility, which opened in May, focuses on giving residents in the region something they hadn't had: complete cancer care -- from preventive cancer screenings to support groups to advanced radiation treatment. Before the cancer center opened, Mrs. Howard's father received chemotherapy from an Oklahoma City doctor who traveled to Woodward, Okla. But the doctor recently retired, leaving Mrs. Howard to find someone else to take over her father's treatment. She found it in Garden City. Several times a week, Mrs. Howard drives her father 107 miles for his radiation therapy. Walking into the center's lobby, she exchanges treatment updates with others she has met at the center, then settles into a seat to wait for the return trip home later that day. "I feel real fortunate that we don't have to go all the way to Enid," she said. "They let you maintain somewhat of a lifestyle here." The center, a separate building across from St. Catherine, looks more like a doctor's office. It doesn't have hospital beds for overnight stays, but patients and their families can stay at a hospitality house near the center. The center also has established partnerships with hospitals in Hugoton and Liberal to coordinate patient care. Before the cancer center opened, patients in the region might have been diagnosed by a local doctor but have had to travel hundreds of miles to see different specialists for treatment. And it was difficult to track the progress or document developing problems in patients who bounced between different doctors and medical facilities. …