Greenwich Hospital is planning to embark upon a major construction project that will significantly increase its cancer treatment facilities.
Hospital President Norman Roth told the Business Journal that the plan to erect a $70 million, 80,000-square-foot cancer center is a direct outgrowth of the 2018 announcement that, in conjunction with parent Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS), it planned to invest $160 million to expand clinical services and ambulatory centers in lower Fairfield and Westchester counties.
“We began to re-examine our relationships through discussions between our staff, our board of trustees and Yale New Haven,” Roth said, “and we decided that strengthening that relationship with significant medical services was the best way to serve our local community.”
That led to the decision to expand its cancer treatment services, he said.
“We have an outstanding breast cancer program under Drs. Barbara Ward and Alyssa Gillego,” he said. “We treat nearly 350 patients every year at the Breast Center.
“But with other major cancer diagnoses,” Roth added, “we were not doing a lot.”
Each year, approximately 1.75 million patients are diagnosed with some form of cancer in the U.S., he said, with about 80% of those cases treated locally. But in Greenwich’s case, “We have had patients having to travel 40 to 50 miles for cancer care, particularly with post-surgical procedures when they’re not feeling well.
“In the case of urological cancers — prostate, kidney, bladder — most of our surgeries have been referred out,” Roth continued. “There’s no reason to have to continue to do that.”
Under the construction plan, the new cancer center will be built across the street from the hospital’s existing Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Pavilion, which houses the Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Greenwich Hospital campus, which is home to the Breast Center and the Bendheim Cancer Center.
“We own 2.3 acres of land there,” Roth said, noting that a pair of buildings — a residence and a parking structure — would need to be removed. Negotiations to relocate those tenants are still pending, he said.
Working with Smilow and YNHHS, Greenwich plans to move its breast cancer facilities to the new building and will beef up staff for other cancer diagnoses, including urological, gastrointestinal, thoracic and gynecological.
“We’re looking at 15 different cancer conditions,” Roth said, “and are hiring a team of experts that not many hospitals can offer. We are already adding physicians so that by the time we’re ready to open the building, we’ll have the building blocks in place. We won’t have to wait for the actual building to begin treating patients.”
Ultimately, he said, hopes are that Greenwich will be able to start conducting comprehensive clinical trials on-site.
The hospital expects to draw more patients from outside Greenwich, he added.
“Today, 53% of the inpatients at Greenwich Hospital reside in Westchester County,” he said. “We are obviously strongly attached to Greenwich and Greenwich residents, but we want to expand our level of services for eastern Westchester County as well.”
If all goes according to plan, Roth said, Greenwich will be the only facility between New Haven and New York City to offer such a wide range of services.
The hospital is also looking to improve its emergency-medical facilities, Roth added, noting that people suffering severe injuries in auto accidents or similar instances are now taken to Stamford Hospital, a designated trauma center. While the distance between the two is roughly 5½ miles, every moment counts in such cases, he said.
“We have applied to the American College of Surgeons to be certified as a Level III Trauma Center” — a designation the organization defines as having “demonstrated an ability to provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care and stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations.”
The proposed construction is in what Roth called “a pre-preliminary” stage, with a formal presentation to the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission likely to take place at its next meeting on April 7.
Pending the various town approvals that are required, Roth said, “I’d like nothing better than to start construction work in 2021 for an opening in very early 2023.”