$12.4 million renovation begins at Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center

Rendering submitted Artist rendering of the community area that is one part of Owensboro Health's $12.4 million renovation of the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. Renovation is expected to take about 14 months.

Owensboro Health recently started a $12.4 million renovation of the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

OH officials expect patient care and services to continue at the facility throughout the 14-month project.

The cancer center opened on July 18, 2005, and has never been renovated. It was built to combine OH's cancer treatment services under one roof. Prior to the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, patients went to several locations for care, said Bonnie Roberts, who has been the center's director since it opened.

In the beginning, about 750 new cancer patients sought treatment there annually. Today, that number has increased to more than 1,000.

The program had three medical oncologists. Now, it has five.

And the center had one radiation oncologist. Today, it has two.

"We've seen our greatest growth in the last three to four years," Roberts said.

Besides growth, however, the renovation will provide greater convenience to patients by bringing the Owensboro Health Oncology & Hematology practice into the building. Currently, those physicians are located next door in OH's Breckenridge Medical Building.

Cancer patients are often fatigued and anxious, Roberts said. Moving physicians into the same building where patients receive treatment will eliminate long walks and provide a more patient-friendly experience.

Other improvements also have patients in mind. For example, the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center presently has 20 treatment spaces. Only about seven of those are private.

Patient feedback asked for more privacy, so the renovated building will have 28 treatment spaces. Most of those will be private.

The majority of the work will take place on the building's second floor.

During the project, patient safety will remain a top priority, OH officials said.

"Patients who are receiving treatment for cancer are especially vulnerable to infections and other problems," Joe Taylor, OH executive director of facilities, said in a press release. "That's why we are taking all precautions to help ensure their safety throughout this renovation."

Demolition will take place after-hours when the center is closed. Specialized dust barriers, air scrubbers and negative pressurization will be used.

OH infection prevention specialists will inspect the facility and will be authorized to stop work if potential health risks arise.

Construction crews will receive special health-care construction training. Additionally, they will use separate entrances, parking and restrooms.

Planning for the renovation took two years, OH officials said. The project will be done in phases to minimize the impact on patient care.

The renovation will provide a new space for the oncology and hematology practice; expanded space for the outpatient treatment clinic; improved space for the on-site lab and oncology pharmacy; new electrical systems, backup generator and updated heating and cooling systems; updates to first-floor areas, including the main lobby and dressing rooms; and new furniture, medical equipment and IT equipment in several areas.

Roberts said OH officials listened to doctors and patients before finalizing plans for the upcoming renovation. Every precaution will be taken to ensure patients are not inconvenienced. She hopes they share any concerns with OH staff.

"This is a project that is consistent with our mission," Roberts said. "We are always trying to do the best for our patients and the people we serve."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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