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Cancer centers crop up in Westchester

memorial sloan kettering Harrison

Construction continues on Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Cancer Center at 500 Westchester Ave. in Harrison.

Westchester is becoming a magnet for cancer centers, though not everyone is happy about it.

Construction continues on Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Cancer Center at 500 Westchester Ave., a former Verizon facility, in Harrison. The 114,000-square-foot treatment facility is expected to open in the first quarter of 2015.

“Frequently, cancer patients from this area who choose to receive care from Memorial Sloan-Kettering must travel into Manhattan for treatments and services,” Dr. Maureen Killackey, deputy physician-in-chief and medical director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Regional Care Network, said in a statement. “The new Harrison facility would allow our patients to receive Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s expertise in this outpatient setting, closer to home.”

The facility would have 140 full-time employees.

Manhattan-based Memorial Sloan-Kettering already has a facility in Sleepy Hollow, though its plans to open in Harrison sparked opposition last year. Its application to the state Department of Health was opposed by the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet) and the Westchester County Medical Society.

The two organizations claimed Memorial Sloan-Kettering could not show sufficient need for a new facility, though the Department of Health approved the application late last year.

“This will be disruptive to the market,” said Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of NorMet. “This will further fragment services, create more competition and marginalize existing sites. It’s not necessary. It’s not in any way in short supply in Westchester.”

Dahill said that Memorial Sloan-Kettering offers great service, but the organization only goes to demographics that suit them and not places that need oncology like Brooklyn and the Bronx.

“They feel they need to create a presence for themselves in highly desired parts of suburban areas,” Dahill said. “It’s pretty clear what’s occurring here. We think it could have a cascading effect.”

Brian Foy, the executive director of the Westchester County Medical Society, said Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s cancer center will be disruptive to the cancer care that exists in Westchester.

“This has nothing to do with Memorial Sloan-Kettering,” Foy said. “We just didn’t feel there was a need. The oncology community is very concerned. I’m sure they’ll see a loss of patients. We felt the whole thing was rushed through.”

The groups do support Lawrence Hospital’s proposed cancer center in Bronxville. The $39 million center, set to receive site plan approval from the planning board this month, would open at the end of 2014. Money for the project will come from fundraising and capital reserves.

The 40,000-square-foot addition to the hospital would provide cancer services, surgery and radiation therapy. The addition is part of a combined project that includes replacing operating rooms to allow expanded space and higher ceilings.

The cancer center will also offer services such as support groups, patient education and a resource center.

“Our goal is to develop a comprehensive center,” said Tim Hughes, vice president of business development at Lawrence Hospital. “All of the disciplines are located in a single location. It’s a team approach to making patients well.”

Hughes said Lawrence Hospital officials are not focused on Memorial Sloan-Kettering, noting that many patients already have the means to travel to New York.

“We believe in developing this center for people for whom transportation is an issue,” Hughes said. “This meets all needs; it’s what is really attractive for our patient population.

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Sam Barron is a former reporter for The Westchester county Business Journal.

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