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November vote on capital sales tax critical to care of cancer patients in Kershaw County

Posted: October 13, 2010 11:33 a.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 5:00 a.m.

In my September column, I wrote about KershawHealth’s proposed new Outpatient and Urgent Care Center at the old Burndale Shopping Center in Camden. This project is among the eight projects that would be funded from the Capital Sales Tax, which is on the November ballot.

 If the tax referendum passes, KershawHealth would receive $4 million for this much-needed facility. The estimated total cost for the project is $10 million. KershawHealth has pledged $3million, and the Hospital Foundation has committed to undertaking a $3 million capital campaign. Funding from the Foundation would be for equipment that directly serves patients.

In response to my earlier column, several people have asked to know more about the Oncology Center that would be part of our new facility.

At present, chemotherapy and other oncology support-services are provided at the KershawHealth Medical Center in Camden. There are approximately 5,000 patient visits for chemotherapy annually. Critical strengths of the oncology program are its highly-qualified, deeply-committed staff and the team of outstanding physicians from South Carolina Oncology Associates who come from Columbia three times a week to care for patients.

Limitations of current oncology center

The physical space where oncology is provided within the Medical Center, however, has severe limitations. In fact, the need for chemotherapy has increased to the point that we no longer have space within the Medical Center to offer this service in a manner that is ideal for cancer patients and those who care for them.

The current oncology center is not easily accessible to these patients who are often physically weak. While there are a limited number of parking spaces designated for oncology patients, there are still many whose caregivers are forced to drop them off and then search for available parking. Once inside the Medical Center, patients still have some distance to go to the oncology area on the second floor.

At present, oncology patients share a waiting area with other patients scheduled for outpatient diagnostic or surgical services. All of these patients are necessarily accompanied by family members or friends. As a result, the waiting area often experiences significant overcrowding. Of more concern, however, is that cancer patients, whose immune systems may well be compromised, are sharing space with the general public.

The oncology space itself has six stations for the administration of chemotherapy, all very crowded together. And at a time when the support of family and friends is so important, there is limited space for others to stay with patients while they are receiving chemotherapy.

For some patients, this space is where they come five days a week. Others may come once a week, or even once a month. For some the chemotherapy lasts for as much as eight hours, for others it may be only one hour. But no matter the frequency or the duration, the space itself is inadequate.

Transforming care of county cancer patients

The proposed new oncology center would be nothing short of a transformation in the care of cancer patients in Kershaw County. That transformation starts in the parking lot, where there would be an entire area restricted solely for oncology patients in close proximity to an entrance directly into the oncology center.

The center itself will be fully self-contained, with its own waiting area, consultation rooms, and bathrooms. The number of stations for chemotherapy would nearly double, all with ample space for friends and family to remain with patients to provide much-needed support and simply to help make the time go by faster.

The proposed new center will not only benefit those coming for chemotherapy, its convenience will also help cancer patients requiring routine visits with an oncologist, regular injections to maintain their blood count, or routine blood work available through the lab that will be in the same building.

And as we look to the future, the new oncology center will gives us options to further expand cancer care in our county.

The opportunity to make a profound difference

No doubt most of us have had family members or friends who’ve undergone chemotherapy treatments. And so we know firsthand the impact a cancer diagnosis can have not only on the patient but that patient’s family and circle of friends. It is a time when family and friends come together to provide the love and support that can make an enormous different to the patient.

The capital tax referendum and the Foundation’s subsequent capital campaign are opportunities for all of Kershaw County to come together to provide more cancer patients even better care right here where we all live. Election Day on November 2nd is the time to start this transformation by voting “yes” to the capital sales tax referendum.


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