CHAMPAIGN – Christie Clinic says it plans to break ground next month on a cancer treatment center in downtown Champaign.
The new 4,300-square-foot facility will be built on part of Christie Clinic's parking lot at the corner of University Avenue and Randolph Street.
Clinic officials expect the building – to be modeled after a Mayo Clinic facility in Arizona – to be done by January, and open to patients sometime in March.
The clinic is working with the city to replace the 16 parking spaces that are being eliminated to make way for the new building, Christie's Chief Financial Officer Jeff James said.
Champaign-Urbana already has two cancer centers – located at the two hospitals in Urbana – and Christie Clinic is investing $5 million to bring a third one to the community because it wants to coordinate the care of its patients better with their doctors, says the clinic's Chief Executive Alan Gleghorn.
Currently, Christie Clinic's cancer patients see their doctors and undergo chemotherapy at the clinic, but have to go elsewhere for radiation treatments.
Christie's new cancer center will offer radiation treatments in-house, via state-of-the-art linear accelerator technology that targets a highly efficient dose of radiation to the cancer area of the body with less damage to surrounding tissue, according to the clinic's radiation oncologist, Dr. Gary Shultz.
That technology leaves patients with fewer side effects and can reduce recurrence of cancer and the need for more dramatic surgeries, he said.
The new center will also offer cancer screenings, cancer education and access to clinical trials, clinic officials said.
Christie Clinic officials say they also see a growing need for more cancer care in the community as more baby boomers age. Shultz, along with Christie's two medical oncologists, are busy now and the expectation is for them to grow busier, James and Gleghorn said.
Shultz said he treats 28 to 35 patients a day at Covenant Medical Center's radiation oncology department, and will continue to treat patients at that hospital's cancer center as needed after Christie's facility is up and running.
"Does this mean we're going to abandon Covenant? Not at all," Gleghorn said.
Gleghorn, in fact, said Christie Clinic invited Covenant to be a partner in the project.
Lisa Lagger, a spokeswoman for the hospital's parent company, Provena Health, said Covenant declined to get involved because it doesn't want to invest its resources in a project for which it doesn't see a need.
"We have had a long and rewarding partnership with the physicians of Christie Clinic, who already provide care to cancer patients through Provena Covenant's respected cancer center," Covenant's Chief Executive David Bertauski said in a written response to questions from The News-Gazette.
"However, it makes no sense to us why they would propose to establish another radiation therapy program when Provena Covenant and Carle already well serve the community's needs," Bertauski added. "As a community, we need to ask the question, if we have two high-quality functioning cancer centers, which include radiation therapy, why do we need a third?
"We must ask the physicians of Christie, is this the smartest use of our finite health resources?"
Lagger said Covenant's cancer center has scored 99 percent ratings in patient satisfaction.
"In our opinion, this feedback from those we serve is further evidence that there is no need for Christie to open such a facility," she added.
Covenant, however, won't have a say about the new cancer center.
The approval of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board – which takes into consideration whether there is a need for a new medical facility in a community – isn't required for this project, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.