Cancer center gets initial OK

Published 11:02 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bon Secours Virginia Health System received a recommendation for approval from the Virginia Department of Health for a new cancer center in Harbour View. A 31,500-square-foot building, similar to the conceptual drawing above, would be built for the center, which would house radiation therapy services that are currently located at Maryview Medical Center.

Bon Secours Virginia Health System has received a preliminary go-ahead for its plans to build a comprehensive cancer center in Harbour View.

The Virginia Department of Health issued a staff report Monday recommending conditional approval of the project, which would include the construction of a new building in Harbour View to house the radiation therapy services that are currently located at Maryview Medical Center.

The recommendation for approval is the first step in a process for a certificate of public need, which is required to start construction on the center.

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“We are delighted at this recommendation of approval,” said Louise Edwards, the director of planning for Bon Secours Hampton Roads. “We clearly have a need (for the cancer center) in this market.”

The recommendation included a charity condition, which would require that Bon Secours Hampton Roads provide 4 percent of its gross patient services revenues to patients who are uninsured or whose income is at or below twice the national poverty level.

Edwards said charity conditions are placed on almost every COPN application.

“It’s absolutely a common condition,” she said.

However, Edwards added, the health system still has to send a letter to the health department accepting the condition.

She said Bon Secours would not have a problem meeting the condition.

Additionally, the approval process allows for objections through Friday based on mistakes or changes to the plan.

If such an objection is filed by end of business Friday, a fact-finding process will be conducted.

However, Edwards said, she doesn’t think anything will be filed, because there was no opposition to the plan when the health department assessed it.

“This project is unopposed,” she said. “Nobody opposed the project during review.”

If no objections arise and the system accepts the condition, the health commissioner will review the document and make the final decision by no later than Nov. 7.

If the commissioner OKs the project, Bon Secours can move forward with its plans.

“This is the exciting part,” Edwards said. “This is the part that really makes a difference in the community.”

This is the second time Bon Secours has filed for a certificate of public need for the same project.

When the health system requested a COPN last May, the department recommended denial, citing concerns about accessibility for patients needing public transportation.

Edwards said she thinks the initial application didn’t clearly explain the health system’s policies for ensuring the patients have transportation before starting treatment.

“We spent more time explaining that this time,” she said. “We also said we would be willing to develop our own transportation for radiation patients.”

The 31,500-square foot, $10.8 million Bon Secours Cancer Institute at Harbour View would house a radiation therapy center with a CT scanner and a linear accelerator for radiation therapy.

The construction will take about 18 to 24 months to complete, and the health system hopes to open the center between late spring and early fall 2013, Edwards said.