Lawrence Memorial Hospital officials expect to break ground Aug. 27 on a $2.9 million expansion of the hospital's Oncology Center. The expansion will eliminate the need for cancer patients to travel out of town for radiation treatments.
LMH vice president Robert Trepinski said plans called for a 9,000-square-foot building that would be constructed just south of the hospital's Lawrence Health Plaza building on the hospital's main campus at Fourth and Maine streets.
The two-story building would provide additional treatment and office space for the hospital's existing Oncology Center. It also would contain a vault-like room to house a linear accelerator, a device that would allow Lawrence doctors to use radiation treatment on a wide variety of cancer patients.
The building is expected to open in fall 2003.
"The radiation therapy can really be a critical part of a person's treatment, and currently they have to leave the community for that," said Janice Early-Weas, director of community relations for LMH. "They have to go to Kansas City or Topeka, and they have to do that when they are sick and don't feel well and it is inconvenient, so we feel like there's a lot of reasons why we should do this."
Trepinski said increasing patient levels at the hospital's existing Oncology Center, which opened in the summer of 2000, showed the need for an expansion. Trepinski said the center, which currently is limited to providing chemotherapy and some types of surgical cancer treatments, had added about 500 new patients during the past year.
From January 2002 to June 2002, the center had conducted 2,700 therapy sessions, which is about 50 percent more than hospital officials had projected for the center.
"Every medical group that we have ever shared our data with has said there's no question that we have a real need for this here," Trepinski said. "Now that we've offered chemotherapy services for the past couple of years, we feel like this project is the last major piece to create a complete community cancer-care center."
LMH board members are expected to give final approval to the construction project at their Aug. 21 meeting. They also will consider awarding a contract to a Kansas City-area company that will provide employees to operate the special radiology equipment.
The hospital already has the necessary zoning to build the expansion. However, it needs city approval for a special-use permit to construct a 60-space parking lot northwest of the intersection of Fourth and Arkansas streets on property that until recently had two single-family homes on it.
Hospital officials purchased and moved the homes to make room for a possible parking lot. The parking lot would replace parking spaces that will be lost from construction.
Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners are tentatively scheduled to hear the parking lot request at their Aug. 28 meeting.
Business editor Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362.