Convenience was the watchword Feb. 23 when White Plains Hospital showed off its expanded Center for Cancer Care.
By expanding and modernizing the center, bringing all services and medical staff under one roof and partnering with Montefiore Health System, the hospital has made it easier for patients to get advanced cancer treatments.
“We want to keep our patients as healthy as possible, for as long as possible,” Susan Fox, the hospital’s president and CEO, told a group of dignitaries, staff and supporters who assembled in the new lobby.
Fox explained that bringing services close to home and providing a friendly, supportive atmosphere are key parts of the hospital leadership’s vision.
Driving yourself to an appointment when you are sick instead of commuting to New York City for treatment is a huge advantage, said Tom Roach, mayor of White Plains and a cancer survivor.
The hospital’s Dickstein Cancer Center was the first freestanding cancer center between New York City and New Haven, Conn., when it was built 17 years ago. Now cancer patients are living longer, creating greater demand for services. The expanded and renovated center at Longview Avenue and East Post Road is being billed as the cancer treatment hub for the whole Hudson Valley.
The expansion cost about $60 million in private and public money. The Dickstein building was linked to a new six-story tower, doubling space to 70,000 square feet. Most of the new space is devoted to offices for doctors who had been at other locations, thus making it easier for multidisciplinary teams to collaborate on cases.
More infusion chairs were added, increasing capacity from 8 to 34. The room includes accommodations for families and friends who want to accompany patients during treatment. The center also features a meditation room, café, wig fitting service and medical library.
A holistic care program offers therapies such as massage, meditation and yoga. The services are first and foremost for the patients, but also are offered to family members, who, administrator Una Hopkins explained, suffer stress along with the patients.
The Montefiore partnership began a year ago. Health care economics make it advantageous for smaller hospitals to collaborate with large health care systems in order to gain affordable access to the best services. White Plains Hospital, for instance, cannot offer every type of cancer specialist, Fox said. But now it can bring Montefiore’s specialists to its patients. Patients also can participate in more than 500 clinical trials underway at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care.
Louanne Mitchell, 54, of Yonkers, benefited from such collaboration even before the formal partnership began. In 2013, a lesion on her leg was diagnosed as melanoma, and the skin cancer had metastasized to her lungs.
“They started talking to me about putting my affairs in order,” she said.
Medical director Dan Costin put her on an immunotherapy, but by 2014 the cancer had spread to her brain. The news was devastating. But Costin assured Mitchell that more could be done.
He consulted with colleagues at Montefiore. She underwent another surgery and was put on a new immunotherapy. For nine months her scans have been clear.
Mitchell was beaming as she spoke to the crowd celebrating the formal opening of the Center for Cancer Care.
Mitchell said, “I’m in full remission!”