Next step for cancer center?

Ordinance introduced, but likely to be pulled in March

Officials reaffirmed Tuesday that a recent impasse regarding competing plans to build a local cancer center has almost been settled, despite action from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that may indicate otherwise.


On Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously introduced Ordinance 2011-19-72, which calls for appropriation of $4.7 million for Central Peninsula Hospital to build its proposed cancer center. Introduction is the first step ordinances must undergo before being approved or rejected by the assembly. Public testimony on the issue is scheduled for the assembly’s March 13 meeting.

CPH Chief Executive Officer Rick Davis and Anchorage-based Dr. John Halligan both proposed building centers for radiation oncology treatment, but differed on where to build the center — on the hospital campus or off campus — and several other aspects of the specialized care.

Halligan wants 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 wants 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, Davis said Tuesday there were some discussions about removing the ordinance before the assembly introduced it, but ultimately all stakeholders wanted a little more time to consider the options.

“This is a 20-year decision that they are getting ready to make,” Davis said. “So if nothing changes in the next 30 days in regards to Dr. Halligan’s position, it probably will be pulled at the next meeting. But I think the group decided there was really no reason to shut that door tonight and really eliminate any of Dr. Halligan’s options.”

On Friday, Davis said the hospital’s idea was “pretty much dead in the water” and CPH’s plans for the comprehensive center would now fall into “fragmented cancer services kind of scattered around.”

Halligan confirmed Tuesday he would continue with Peninsula Cancer Center as proposed.

“I have told them our plans are to move forward, but they were requesting that I at least consider their points further,” he said during a break in the assembly’s meeting.

Halligan likened the situation to a “difference of philosophy,” agreed he wanted to maintain aspects of “physician independence,” and, moreover, thought his proposal would be sufficient, despite being off campus. 

“The clinical aspects of having our unified cancer program right there where we see it, since the overwhelming majority of the cases are as outpatients, is going to be the best fit for patients and our clinic itself,” he said. “I don’t have any hostility toward (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Mayor (Mike) Navarre asking for it to be kept on the agenda.”

The relationship between CPH and Halligan, he said, has “been much more cooperative,” and he has tried to “cut out the past as far as some of the behavior that happened.”

Central Peninsula General Hospital, Inc. board president Lore Weimer said there aren’t any plans for further formal talks between the two sides, but CPH is “holding out hope for an on-campus solution.”

“And maybe continue the dialogue between the borough, him and us and other stakeholders,” she said. “We would like him to see the advantages of the on-campus solution.”

Navarre said the bottom line is having the service in the area.

“If Dr. Halligan is going forward with his project, at that point it really wouldn’t make any sense (for CPH to continue) because he can get under construction much quicker than we can and if that is the case it makes no sense to have two competing projects at that point in time,” he said.

In other news, the assembly:

• Introduced, unanimously, Ordinance 2011-19-71, which seeks to appropriate $35,000 to pay for outside legal counsel to help defend the borough against a lawsuit filed by Kahtnu Ventures, LLC, regarding its proposal to build an ambulatory surgical center in Kenai and a requested an injunction against the Department of Health and Social Services decision that the hospital did not need a Certificate of Need to finish its fourth operating room. The borough and CPH are listed as parties. Public testimony is scheduled for Feb. 28.

• Introduced, unanimously, Oridnance 2011-19-70, which seeks to appropriate $200,000 to hire a consultant to assist the borough in curbing health care costs in the borough and investigate other options. Public testimony is scheduled for March 13.

• Assembly member Linda Murphy was absent.