Cancer and transportation

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In a city with such great health care alternatives, adequate treatment for cancer should not hinge on the ability to overcome the transportation challenges inherent to Hampton Roads.

Folks who need advanced radiological treatment should not have to add steep tunnel tolls to the cost of their treatments. Families should be able to limit the amount of time they miss from work. Patients should be able to look forward to brief drives to and from their treatment centers. Traffic and other transportation considerations should not be issues that cause those who are trying to beat the disease to opt for inadequate treatment.

But all of those things are factors for folks in Suffolk and the rest of Western Tidewater who are fighting cancer. They must consider the cost of tolls during daily trips to Norfolk for radiation. They must consider the time that will be lost from work while driving to Newport News. They must consider the possibility of missing appointments due to traffic backups at just about any of the water crossings that separate them from the radiological treatment centers in Newport News or Norfolk.

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But a request from Sentara Obici Hospital to the Virginia Health Commissioner for a Certificate of Public Need to add Stereotactic Radiosurgery and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy programs to the Suffolk facility could change things for folks around here.

The specific radiation technologies are offered at hospitals in Norfolk and Newport News, but for many patients in Western Tidewater, the long drives, time off work, tunnel tolls and more prove too burdensome for them to go for daily treatments.

In their application to the state, hospital officials cited real-life examples of patients who were forced to choose less-than-ideal treatment regimens because they could not overcome the burdens of transportation-related issues.

It’s hard enough for those who suffer from cancer and for their families to consider the pain and indignity of the treatment needed to beat the disease, and the reality of the survival rates for many types of cancer is a heartbreaking burden on the souls of patients and families, alike.

Sentara’s request for Obici Hospital to be granted the right to perform advanced radiotherapy and radiosurgical treatments should be fast-tracked for approval by the Virginia Department of Health. It’s time for transportation considerations to be removed as a limiting factor for treatment for those who have cancer in Suffolk.