A doctor’s vision, the dream of many and the hope of residents of the Kenai Peninsula became reality last week as the ribbon was cut at the grand opening of the new Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center adjacent to Central Peninsula Hospital. Immediately life for those battling cancer became easier. “This is a dream come true for me as a physician. With the Elekta accelerator we bring state of the art cancer care down to the Peninsula. People will be getting treatments here equivalent to any major cancer center in any major city in the lower 48 and elsewhere. The advancement in radiation therapy equipment has been amazing and the things this accelerator can do now is really quite incredible and with the team we’ve assembled here to care for our patients we will be able to give compassionate and high quality, technically advanced care right here on the Kenai Peninsula,” said Dr. John Halligan clinical director of the center.
Speaking as someone who has been personally fighting cancer Kenai Mayor Pat Porter passed out the letters to a four letter word, “HOME! Never again will we have to leave the security of our homes and jobs and ad the insecurity of travel and strange surroundings for our cancer treatment. Today brings comfort, healing and hope to our community,” said Porter. One of the reasons we are seeing more cancer today Dr. Halligan believes is that people are living longer and receiving better care for other illnesses that people use to die from, “We know that cancer becomes more common as people get older and we see that as the primary care doctors take care of their patient’s diabetes, manage their blood pressure and etc. that people are not dying from complications of those diseases they are living longer and getting cancer from things such as tobacco use and other things known to cause cancer,” he said in an interview with the Dispatch.
The completion of the Radiation Oncology Center on the campus of Central Peninsula Hospital was a collaboration between the public and private sector that was completed in less than a year from initial ground breaking, “Someone said today that for a government project this went pretty fast, but I have to say for any project this size it went very fast. A year ago we were a long ways from even having the plans for a project like this and here we are standing in a facility that is ready to start seeing patients. So it was a pretty amazing feat I think,” commented Central Peninsula Hospital CEO Rick Davis. “While cancer care has many components we now have two of the larger ones with infusion and radiation oncology, but those are the two pillars give us a foundation to ad more oncology services so that we can continue on now to developing a full cancer center here on the Peninsula,” added Davis.
With the atmosphere of a classy Alaskan hotel or spa lobby, the greeting room of the new center is filled with native art that all was purchased in Homer. We were very happy with the way it turned out and that we found all these pieces of art right here on the Peninsula, said Radiation Therapist Craig Gustafson. The comfortable homey atmosphere is part of therapy and aids in healing and we feel we’ve caught the unique spirit of the Peninsula for patients who now will be able to stay at home while receiving treatment. Even the ceiling of the concrete incased linear accelerator room is an artificial skyscape that gives the patient the feeling and serenity of being in a room with a view. The center and its three member physician team anticipate treating some 200 patients annually according to Jan Weiler, department manager at the Center.