Unified cancer center likely a go

Two entities wanting to build a cancer treatment center on the Kenai Peninsula have reached an agreement after about six months of negotiations.


The only thing now standing between Central Peninsula Hospital, Dr. John Halligan and the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration from breaking ground on a unified cancer treatment center is Resolution 2012-051. The assembly will consider the resolution's fate at its Tuesday meeting.

"It looks like, unless someone finds a cure for cancer, we will be down there in operation for the next 20 years," said Halligan, an Anchorage-based radiation oncologist. "So that's looking good."

The resolution would approve a sublease agreement between Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc. and RBS Evolution, Halligan's hired medical management company, for 20 years of cancer treatment on the hospital's campus. Construction of the facility will be funded by $4.7 million previously appropriated from CPH coffers. Halligan said the group hopes to break ground in August and anticipates opening to patients in mid-April next year.

CPH officials and Halligan both proposed building cancer centers in the area, but differed on the location -- on or off the hospital's campus -- and several other aspects of the specialized care. Those differences almost caused a division between the two sides with Halligan declaring he would build off campus. That action would have left CPH's plans for a larger cancer center on the sideline, but the two sides continued talks for months despite actions that indicated one or the other was moving on.

"The folks at the hospital after our initial rough start last fall, it's been really good working with them and we've put together a very good program," Halligan said. "So, I'm very happy about that."

One of Halligan's main concerns was maintaining independence in his practice. He said those concerns were sufficiently addressed by borough and CPH officials.

"We are leasing the space, but the practice itself is independent, but at the same time we are respecting some of the (hospital's) requirements," he said.

Rick Davis, CPH Chief Executive Officer, agreed.

"It is his business," Davis said. "We'll be working together and he'll be part of our bigger cancer program once we get the center going. But the radiation oncology is his baby. He's the radiation oncologist. You don't want me pushing those buttons."

Halligan's other concern was related to the speed at which the borough would be able to build the facility if he signed on board. Construction on his off-campus facility would have likely been completed by the end of 2012. However, Halligan said he was "extremely impressed" by the borough's ability to move quickly on the project.

The doctor also said he has been working with a CPH team on the facility's design and Davis noted plans were about 80 percent complete.

"We've come up with, I think, just a wonderful facility and we've got plans and everything set for ... a state of the art linear accelerator to put in there," Halligan said. "I'm actually very happy with how everything has worked out and is going along."

Halligan said he was unsure whether or not he would sell the land he purchased near the hospital, but noted the hospital hasn't made him an offer on it.

The rest of  CPH's cancer center plans -- including a medical office building, larger infusion center and cancer resource and research center -- would need separate funding and are "two or three years down the road," Davis said.

"It would be another phase and it would be part of a ... bigger expansion that would house some other stuff, too," he said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he is pleased all sides are working together.

"He maintains his independence, we're working out some issues to make sure there is flexibility in that regard, and I think the hospital, Dr. Halligan and the people who need that type of service ... all understand it is in everybody's best interest to have a professional and good working relationship," he said.

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.