Rendering of the new Harbin Clinic Cancer Center (contributed)

Rendering of the new Harbin Clinic Cancer Center (contributed)

Harbin Clinic’s plans to build a comprehensive cancer in Rome means more than consolidating patient services under one roof. It means more exposure as a health care hub. It means being a magnet for more cancer-related

specialists. It may mean jobs and an economic boost. It could mean more clinical trials and research prospects — and so much more yet to be seen.

Harbin’s vision calls for a three-story cancer center on Second Avenue at West Fifth Street, near the main entrance of Floyd Medical Center behind Barron Stadium.

The Harbin Clinic Cancer Center, with an estimated cost of $15 million, will combine local cancer services into a central location. The target date for completion is December 2010.

When built, it will be the culmination of a vision that started coming into focus durin g the last decade.

When Harbin unveiled its plans a few weeks ago, Dr. Ken Davis, Harbin president and CEO, said, “Providing a true cancer program for our patients is more than build-

ing a new facility

with the latest equipment and technology. It’s centering everything around the cancer patients’ needs by placing all cancer services in one location.”

The location is highly visible and accessible on a corner parcel of the Floyd Medical Center campus.

The Hospital Authority owns the property but will transfer the title to Floyd Healthcare Management to allow for a long-term lease of that property with the developer and Harbin Properties, says Floyd President and CEO Kurt Stuenkel.

The management board currently oversees Floyd Medical Center and the authority’s other nonprofit ventures.

“The transfer is required because the Authority by law cannot enter into leases longer than 40 years. In Georgia, most medical office building transactions with hospital authorities involve land leases that require longer than 40 years as a term.”

The 55,000-square-foot facility will be built by Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, a renowned builder headquartered in the Southeast and licensed in 49 states.

Modern Healthcare Magazine ranked the company the No. 2 healthcare general contractor in the nation in 2009.

The sleek, modern brick and glass design of the building is the work of Peacock Architects in Atlanta. That firm “designed the Harbin Cancer Center, along with our Specialty Center, our Cedartown Medical Building, Cartersville Medical Center and Summerville Dialysis Center. They are also the designers for the internal renovation of Harbin’s 1825 Martha Berry Blvd. building and our SCI building,” said Davis.

He said as soon as Harbin gets the “Notice to Proceed,” workers will start moving dirt and the groundbreaking will be scheduled. Harbin officials are hoping that will be in the next 30 days.

The timing might have been a surprise for some since the economy has some construction projects on hold, but Harbin officials say it is just how the timeline unfolded.

“We made the long-awaited announcement on Oct. 22 because the Harbin Board of Directors had just approved the project at their last board meeting on Oct. 21. There had been so many questions and much speculation about when the Cancer Center would be built, that we wanted to let the community know as soon as it was approved.”

He added that the December 2010 target date was simply to allow a year for construction since that’s how long it took to build Harbin’s specialty center and its Cartersville medical facility.

Ripple Effect

Davis has said the cancer center may have a positive ripple effect in the community.

The most obvious, and desirable, would be that it could attract a new level of specialized cancer care physicians to the area.

It may create new or experimental treatments for cancer or boost clinical trials, say local health care leaders.

Harbin Clinic already offers 45 clinical trials, rivaling some larger medical centers.

The cancer center is good news for both the health care industry and residents of Floyd County and Northwest Georgia, said Brenda Waltz, CEO of Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome.

“The better the physicians do, the better the hospitals do. It’s a spoke and hub effect.” She said attracting more specialized physicians and surgeons also helps garner more recognition for the area.

“This brings a more holistic approach to the entire cancer arena. By combining it all in the cancer center, it will make folks in our primary and secondary service area realize they don’t have to go outside of Rome for their cancer treatment.”

Stuenkel agrees.

“The Harbin Clinic had the vision to assemble and create a premier service in one location in a prominent new building. I think it will be a fantastic addition to services in the region,” he said.

There is also an expectation that there maybe new health jobs created, though no one can say just what those would be right now.

And there is opportunity for spin-off business.

“Any time a cancer center or other health-related facility is created, there are usually opportunities for some small companies to be created to support their needs,” said Davis. “There could very well be some research companies related to the oncology side of health care that could be seen in the future. Also, when recruiting for additional oncology specialists, having a cancer center here is a great asset as that’s one of the main things most oncologists look for in deciding where to practice.”

Waltz adds that the cancer center “enhances the overall health care product” here. Even though there are already local clinical trials, she says there’s more opportunity for more since such trials are usually through the physicians. “And that would certainly benefit some Redmond patients.”

And it is already creating business for area financial institutions since financing for the cancer center involves three local banks and is “still in process” say Harbin officials.

Collaborative spirit

“The Cancer Center’s mission is to provide the very best care for our cancer patients,” said Davis. He notes that most of the work in the center will “involve Harbin physicians, i.e., medical and radiation oncologists, specialists such as general surgeons, neurosurgeons, pulmonologists and other specialties.”

According to “The Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities,” Rome ranks first as the most desirable in health care, with more physicians, specialists and hospital beds per capita than any other small city in the United States.

While that certainly fosters a competitive marketplace, it also provides fertile ground for partnership and collaboration.

And cancer treatment and prevention has always been a uniting cause in this community.

A partnership already makes available a state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner — jointly owned by Redmond Regional Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Rome Radiology — that will be located at the new cancer center. The scanner is a high-tech imaging device for detecting cancers.

Redmond’s Waltz said the scanner partnership is practical. “The population here is only enough to support one scanner so that’s why that is a shared project. It just makes sense for all of the cancer services to be located in one central site.”

Floyd Medical Center will move The Breast Center — its specialized clinic centered on diagnosing and treating breast cancer — to the third floor of the cancer center. FMC officials say they are assessing how they will use the space being vacated on the second floor at the hospital’s north entrance and are not ready to announce plans for that space yet.

“This project is a great example of how multiple parties can partner to achieve a goal. We have a history of this in our region. The mobile cardiac catheterization lab (no longer in service), the Rome Imaging Center, the 330 Physicians Center are but a few examples of partnerships. We will continue to seek out partners where it makes sense,” said Stuenkel.

Davis said the main focus of all concerned is to consolidate treatment and services for local cancer patients.

His fellow health care colleagues agree.

“I’m excited that it’s a comprehensive effort,” added Waltz. “It’s been fragmented in the past. So it’s good for all of the partners to come together at that site under one cancer center.”

And Stuenkel is pleased the Harbin Cancer Center will be on FMC’s medical campus.

“For Floyd, our thought is for the campus to continue to evolve as a destination for medical care. Further, this site is quite prominent and easy to get to,” he said.

Collective Praise

Local health care executives are all celebrating the news that the cancer center is becoming a reality.

While it is first and foremost Harbin’s project, the hospitals that treat and house cancer patients know that its presence impacts the whole health care community.

“Harbin Clinic has been working on this for a long time. It’s very exciting that it is all finally coming to fruition and their hard work is paying off,” said Waltz. “Citizens of our community should be very proud that Harbin is moving forward with this initiative.”

The groundbreaking is the next stepping-stone in the path to the Harbin Cancer Center.

“We’re very excited about that and once a date is decided on, we will invite the public to share in this event. After that, you’ll see equipment on the site, steel going up and lots of people working to get our vision accomplished,” said Davis. “Of course, in December of 2010, just a little over a year from now, we’ll be having our open house celebration and inviting the community to see their new Harbin Clinic Cancer Center.”

Article and photo courtsey of the Rome News Tribune