Cancer center space rapidly taking shape
Work is progressing quickly on a 30,000-square-foot concrete, steel and masonry building in New Richmond that come spring, will offer patients state-of-the-art cancer therapies now available only in the Twin Cities, Eau Claire or Rice Lake.
Although the cancer center with its full-time oncologist and sophisticated linear accelerator -- a nuclear device used to administer highly focused radiation therapies -- is the central focus of the building, local and area people seeing medical specialists at Westfields' specialty clinics will enter the new addition as well to visit specialists in areas such as orthopedics, neurology and pulmonology.
Touring the facility for the first time last Monday, administrator Steve Muellerleile was clearly impressed.
"This was my first opportunity to get inside and tour the construction site," said Muellerleile. "I'm pleased to see the progress that's been made. We're on track to meet the projected completion date."
Excavating work for the new addition had already begun when leaders from hospitals at St. Croix Falls, Amery, Baldwin, Hudson, Osceola, New Richmond and several elected state officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony last August.
Kraus-Anderson field supervisor Brian Robinette said earth beneath the building site, about 300 yards east of the Willow River, was largely sand and despite the wet fall weather, the precipitation absorbed quickly, allowing large concrete pours to remain on-schedule.
The presence of the linear accelerator, the nuclear device that generates the focused radioactive beam used to treat certain cancers, required some special building accommodations. The accelerator will be in a lower-level room surrounded by concrete poured two to five feet thick, depending on the area. Steel frames in the area are lead-filled, window glass contains a layer of lead, and even plywood used as part of the finishing process weighs in at 60-plus pounds per square foot because of the lead content, Robinette explained.
Once opened, the cancer center will likely bring 30-60 additional patients each day to the Westfields campus, who will be referred there by primary physicians.
They'll visit to consult with a radiation oncologist or medical oncologist -- Muellerleile said the center will be staffed with specialists from Minneapolis Radiation Oncology P.A. and HealthPartners Medical Group's medical oncology department daily -- or to receive treatments like infusion or radiation therapy or other procedures.
The six hospitals collaborating to build the center include Amery Regional Medical Center, Baldwin Area Medical Center, Hudson Hospital & Clinics, Osceola Medical Center, St. Croix Regional Medical Center and Westfields Hospital in New Richmond.
Through collaboration, coordinated cancer care prevention, treatment and supportive services will be available at all six participating hospitals, officials said in an earlier announcement about the center.
Cost of cancer center construction is estimated at $4.5 million while the additional shared space for the Westfields specialty clinic adds about another $3.2 million to the total project.
Several months ago, hospital officials said they've seen 450 percent growth in outpatient services over the past 10 years with the addition of specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, nephrology and pulmonology.
The specialty clinic will include 11 exam rooms and six specially-equipped areas for completing tests and procedures.
Robinette said Kraus-Anderson hopes to turn over the building to officials in early April. If equipment installation, testing and inspections go well, the facility should be open for patients by early May.