Cancer Centers Up Competition in Eastern Iowa

By Cindy Hadish, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Options for cancer care are growing in Eastern Iowa as another cancer center prepares to open its doors.

Staff at Mercy Medical Center's new Hall-Perrine Cancer Center will begin seeing patients on one floor Monday, with another floor scheduled to open this spring.

"Everything is here," said Dee Eadie, who was hired as executive director in January to lead the new center. "The patient is going to receive everything under one roof."

Mercy isn't the first in the Corridor to integrate its cancer services.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics opened a $12 million clinic in Iowa City in December.

Just blocks from Mercy in Cedar Rapids, the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center of Iowa is scheduled to open in consolidated quarters in January.

Now at the Medical Office Plaza and elsewhere in Cedar Rapids, the center will be one portion of the $47 million Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Medical Pavilion, under construction at 10th Street and Second Avenue SE.

Some have questioned the cost of cancer services, including an opinion column by Dr. Thomas Warren of PCI, published Sunday in The Gazette.

Warren wrote that hospital-based outpatient billing for such care as chemotherapy can result in a charge to the insurance company marked up 400 percent or more, with patients responsible for the deductible and 20 percent hospital co-pay.

Mercy officials noted that the hospital provides needed health care, regardless of a patient's ability to pay. Mercy provided $17.4 million in free health care last year.

"This level of assistance is not typically available at all health care locations," spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden wrote in an email.

Holden director Dr. George Weiner has said the incidence of cancer hasn't increased in Iowa, but the availability of cancer treatments has.

More patients also are being diagnosed earlier and seen in outpatient clinics rather than staying in the hospital, he said.

Director Kimberly Ivester said lower costs for patients and best outcomes are primary motivators for the Helen G. Nassif cancer center, named after the Cedar Rapids native and financial donor.

Ivester said the primary idea is to make cancer care "more of a process than a place."

"We're really just trying to better the care that we're providing to patients," she said.

Mercy's Eadie said having all cancer services under one roof at Mercy is convenient for patients and makes sense, especially in emergencies with medical staff available in the hospital.

Additionally, Mercy's new cancer center wraps around the hospital's Hall Radiation Center for patients in need of radiation treatment, she said.

Eadie, administrator at the University of Virginia's Cancer Center before coming to Cedar Rapids, pointed out the new center's assets: an exercise room; heated infusion chairs for chemotherapy; community room with space for 93 people; pharmacy with the nation's first Health Robotics oncology robot for mixing chemotherapy medications; and an image recovery center with a salon for wig-fitting, prosthetics and more.

Mercy's center has three floors, with mechanical equipment on a fourth floor.

Oncology Associates staff, now employed by Mercy, begin patient care Monday on the third floor.

The Oncology Associates building, 525 10th St. SE, in front of Mercy's new center, will be demolished in coming weeks to make way for parking and green space.

Offices and other space on the first floor will be fully operational in June, with a grand opening scheduled for July.

Eadie said patient and family input was important in the new center's design.

Steps, for example, were counted to reduce the number patients will have to take from car to treatment.

Eadie said the center's second floor is for future expansion.

"We'll have the space available when we need it," she said. "Otherwise, you're at capacity when you move in."

FYI

Hall-Perrine Cancer Center

- Location: Mercy Medical Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids

- Cost: $24.6 million

- Size: 86,000 square feet, with 27 infusion chairs or beds for chemotherapy and 16 exam rooms

- Staff: More than 100 employees, including about 40 from Oncology Associates; now employed by Mercy

- Opening date: Third floor opens Monday; fully operational in June
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