Archive for Tuesday, May 5, 1992


May 5, 1992


— Karen Dechant of Garden City spent a recent day here in the ``big city.''

But she didn't drive across the state to shop or to catch a Royals game. She spent the day at the Kansas University Medical Center having her ninth cycle of chemotherapy.

In August, Dechant was diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently underwent surgery at the KU Medical Center.

Now, she is among hundreds of patients who are being treated at KU's new cancer center, a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment center that opened April 6.

A collaborative effort between the medical center and Salick Health Care Inc., a Los Angeles-based health care company, the new cancer center offers medical oncology and radiation oncology treatments, and eventually will be open on a 24-hour basis.

LAST TUESDAY while she waited for her chemotherapy treatment, Dechant said she liked the new center.

"It has a lot more privacy and a lot more room," she noted.

Patient convenience is a major goal of the center, said Chris Spinella, interim executive director.

Spinella explained that the origin of the cancer center was a personal experience of Dr. Bernard Salick, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Salick Health Care Inc.

In 1983, Spinella said, Salick's 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer. Owner of a number of kidney dialysis centers, Salick took his daughter to the University of California-Los Angeles, where they saw an oncologist whose patients had a higher than average cure rate.

The daughter, like Dechant, underwent surgery for her cancer, Spinella said, but Salick "saw something lacking in the way we treat cancer patients and thought there must be a better way to deliver care."

SO SALICK decided to expand his health care company and opened a 24-hour outpatient cancer center outside of Beverly Hills. Now the company operates nine cancer centers, including KU's, and facilities in California, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Spinella said Salick's company wanted to open a center in the Midwest and chose the medical center because of its location and its strength.

Patient services are being phased in gradually. Currently, the center offers 8,000 square feet of space for medical oncology and 12,000 square feet for radiation oncology, Spinella said, noting a permanent center with about 50,000 square feet will be completed in about 2 years.

In radiation oncology, which includes radiation therapy, the center is expected to treat about 1,000 patients each year. In medical oncology, which includes chemotherapy, the center is expected to treat about 1,100 patients annually. Some patients receive both kinds of treatment.

About 65 staff members work at the center. Physicians are employees of the medical center, but Salick's company hires the support staff, Spinella said.

THE CENTER has its own laboratories, pharmacy and equipment, and in the future also will have its own chest X-ray unit, mammography unit and needle biopsy unit.

Spinella said everything had been designed to best meet patient needs. Treatment and waiting rooms feature televisions and videocasette recorders; some treatment rooms have beds, others have chairs. All are divided by sliding glass doors, which allow patients the option of talking with each other.

Some patients come in for just an hour or two; others spend all day.

Delores Esparza, an oncology nurse at the center, said the decision about which type of room patients would be treated in was based on patient preference and the type of treatment they were to receive.

If the patient is going to be at the center for one of the shorter times and would prefer to be treated in a chair, then the staff will accommodate that desire.

SOME OLDER patients prefer to be treated in rooms with beds, though, even if they are only going to be at the center for a short time, and those desires also are accommodated.

Dechant, who noticed a lump under her arm in April 1991, is being treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

She said her skin has been feeling tight because of the radiation, and "you feel blah" with chemotherapy.

"When I was diagnosed, I was more afraid of the chemo than I was of the cancer," she said, adding that her physicians have said she's responded well to chemotherapy.

Dechant said she liked the fact that the center was an outpatient facility because that made it easier for her to use.

Spinella said the center should be open on a 24-hour basis by the summer to better accommodate people who must schedule treatments around work times and to help those who become sick at night.

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