After nearly a year’s worth of work, the Anderson Mercy Cancer Care is open for business.
In September 2016, Anderson began providing cancer care services through a partnership with Mercy Hospital in St. Louis called Anderson Mercy Cancer Care. Installation of a new, state-of-the-art linear accelerator was completed in March of this year. A linear accelerator, or LINAC, customizes high energy X-rays to conform to a tumor’s shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.
Renovations to the facilities at the Warren Billhartz Cancer Center were extensive. The infusion suite was remodeled and all new infusion recliners installed. The pharmacy was also rebuilt. The center has an infusion room where chemotherapy infusions, injections and hydration therapy are administered.
The new partnership with Mercy means that Metro East residents facing a cancer diagnosis now can opt to be treated locally, close to the comforts of home and family, said Keith Page, Anderson Hospital president and CEO.
In addition to the physical upgrades, staffing has been enhanced as well. An onsite chemotherapy specific pharmacist has been added along with infusion-trained nurses and nurses trained to treat chemotherapy patients.
The collaboration with Mercy Hospital means that Anderson has been able to access Mercy’s expertise in the cancer fields. Dr. Syed Arshad, a Mercy physician, has been added as a medical oncologist and Dr. Jaymeson Stroud, another Mercy physician, as a radiation oncologist.
“Anderson Hospital prides itself on keeping health care local,” said Page. “This partnership gives patients the most convenient access to Mercy’s clinical expertise and the integrated model simplifies the options for local cancer patients. We are able to take advantage of their expertise and bring it to our local community. We are really excited about it.”
Wendy McIntyre, an oncology nurse with more than 25 years of experience, is the director of the cancer center. “Oncology care is a passion of mine,” she said. “One in eight people in this world will be touched with cancer and I have had plenty of family members effected as I’m sure we all have. I know cancer both from a personal and professional standpoint.”
McIntyre said that some patients receive chemotherapy, some radiation therapy and some receive both together at the same time. With all the improvements that have been made, she said, patients have a very easy transition from one treatment regime to the other and their doctors are in constant communication. Patients’ treatment plans are developed by the patient and doctor together. If they need both radiation and chemo, they can coordinate their schedules. The nursing team works together to make sure patients have a comprehensive and cohesive experience.
“This has been a very big investment,” McIntyre said, “but it’s because Anderson Hospital has a philosophy -- and Mercy shares that philosophy — about providing personal care for patients because they’re our neighbors. We’re in the community and we want to take care of our community. We want people to know that we provide exceptional doctors and care here. We’ve put in the best equipment as well so they’re not going to get better treatment in St. Louis or anywhere else.”
McIntyre said that the Cancer Center’s staff constantly strives to stay on top of cutting edge protocols in cancer treatment, using all the newest tools and drugs as soon as they come on the market. She said the common perception of cancer care is that you’re going to get really sick but that’s not the way it is anymore. Advancements in medication, treatment and supportive care have all produced better experiences and better outcomes for patients.
“People are traveling across the river for care that they can receive right here,” McIntyre said. “We aren’t as big as them but that’s actually a benefit for us because it means we get to know our patients. We know them by their first names and we know their families and we support them all. We want people to know that they don’t have to travel for exceptional cancer care. We can provide it right here.”