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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Weigand Contruction ironworkers guide the final steel beam into place during Wednesday’s topping-off ceremony for the Parkview Cancer Institute. The facility is scheduled to open in 2018.

  • Danielle Barker, a registered nurse, adds her name to the beam, which is covered in signatures of cancer survivors, hospital administrators, caregivers and others involved in the project.

Thursday, October 06, 2016 4:37 am

Investment in project grows

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Parkview Health is increasing its investment in the Parkview Cancer Institute to $100 million, officials announced Wednesday.

Both the price and the size of the five-story center now under construction have increased since the project was first unveiled in May 2015.

Original plans called for an $80 million, 125,000-square-foot facility. Blueprints now call for 175,000 square feet – or 40 percent more. The cost increased by 25 percent.

The larger building will allow Parkview to include unfinished spaces that can be turned into offices as operations expand, Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh said.

Clabaugh was among about 375 Parkview officials, employees and volunteers who gathered on the health care provider’s north side campus off Dupont Road to watch construction workers place the final structural steel beam on the cancer center in a "topping out" ceremony.

The beam, which was signed by numerous employees and patients, was itself topped with the U.S. and Parkview flags and an evergreen tree, which steel workers say symbolizes growth and brings good luck.

Mike Packnett, Parkview’s CEO, introduced Dr. Neil Sharma as the cancer center’s president. Scott James was named the cancer center’s chief operating officer in 2015.

Sharma impressed Packnett and others a year ago, when the doctor delivered an impassioned speech at Parkview’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the building.

"We looked at each other and said, ‘I think we’ve got our guy right here,’ " Packnett said, adding that officials nevertheless completed a formal search process.

Packnett couldn’t help teasing Sharma, who was married this year and is awaiting the birth of the couple’s first child.

"I just want him to buy the biggest house and get in a lot of debt so he stays here his entire career," Packnett said.

Packnett and Sharma – together and separately – toured numerous cancer centers across the country when preparing to launch the local project.

What resonated was the success of centers that organize offerings around patients rather than expecting patients to travel to specialists in scattered locations, which is the common model.

The Parkview Cancer Institute will house oncologists and researchers but will also offer genetic, nutritional, spiritual and emotional counseling. Patients will be able to consult specialists in every aspect of cancer prevention, treatment and survival in one place, officials said.

"We want to collaborate with our patients in a way that’s different," Sharma said. "Cancer care is going to require us to be forward-thinking and daring."

Among the cancer care providers with similar philosophies are Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Atlanta location; Duke University; and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, Sharma said after the formal remarks.

Sharma expects the Parkview cancer center to become a destination for people seeking care throughout the region and in neighboring states. He would also welcome patients of local Lutheran Health Network doctors.

"We’re going to collaborate with any physician who takes care of cancer patients," he said. "It doesn’t matter who they work for."

Plans call for adding at least 10 physicians to the Parkview staff. Dr. Alexander Starodub was recently hired to fill the first of the positions. The cancer center is expected to open in spring 2018.

Those who gathered for Wednesday’s dedication ceremony included current and past cancer patients along with Parkview volunteers and staffers. Everyone had one thing in common, Sharma said.

"We all have hope," he said, "that tomorrow can be better than today."

sslater@jg.net