Cancer center dust-up looks settled

The two entities pushing for cancer treatment services in the area may have worked through a recent impasse that stemmed from competing plans to build a local cancer center when the community can only support one.


Central Peninsula Hospital, under the direction of Chief Executive Officer Rick Davis, and the newly formed Peninsula Cancer Center, under the direction of Anchorage-based Dr. John Halligan, both want to bring radiation oncology services to the central Peninsula but differed on the best way to do that.

The scuffle revolved around where and how fast the center could be built.

Halligan wanted to build his own facility off, but near the CPH campus, own the land it sits on and charge for both professional and technical fees associated with cancer treatment.

CPH wanted to build a facility to house radiation oncology services and eventually others as part of a larger cancer treatment operation on its campus and lease out the building to radiation oncologists, who would still collect the professional and technical fees.

However, it now seems CPH will be backing away from its plans and seeking to work along side Halligan.

On Wednesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough released its draft Feb. 14 agenda, which included Ordinance 2011-19-72 calling for appropriation of $4.7 million for CPH to build their cancer center.

However, Davis said Friday the assembly “probably” would pull that item from the agenda to allow Halligan to proceed with his plan.

“There is obviously not room for two and the assembly is not going to approve ours with somebody offering to do it themselves across the street, so we are pretty much dead in the water,” Davis said.

“The comprehensive cancer program idea won’t happen now. It’ll be fragmented cancer services kind of scattered around.”

However, Davis said it is still a benefit for the area to have the services, despite the location.

Halligan agreed.

“We will have ongoing talks but it is almost certain this is the approach that is going to happen,” Halligan said. “But, we are going to work carefully with the hospital even as we move along because I do want to build a comprehensive program.”

Halligan said he did “seriously” consider a request for a letter of interest from CPH — the same one that was also sent to Dr. Richard Chung of the Anchorage & Valley Radiation Therapy Centers, who is the only other radiation oncologist in the area. Chung was interested in partnering with the hospital, Davis said, but Halligan didn’t respond.

“It was a difficult decision,” Halligan said. “There are a lot of pros and cons going back and forth in the two programs, but we think this will actually work out between us, internal medicine, and medical oncology all right there and right across from the hospital.”

Language in the borough ordinance reads that if the “private physician group remains committed to constructing a facility off campus, this ordinance will not be necessary.”

“However, in order to meet a construction timeline for the upcoming building season and to provide for public notice and hearing requirements, this ordinance is being introduced while discussions continue about the best approach for moving forward on this needed service,” the ordinance reads.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said the “bottom line” is that all patients have to leave the area currently and “it’ll be better whether it’ll be on campus or off campus because there is not room for two facilities.”

“We will embrace that and start working on other things,” Navarre said of CPH backing away and allowing Halligan to build his center. “It is the reasonable approach.”