St. Luke's approved to offer radiation therapy

Hospital was denied authorization in 2009

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UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital will soon be able to offer radiation therapy to cancer patients.

The State Health Facilities Council approved the hospital’s application for a Certificate of Need to establish external beam radiation therapy services on Monday.

The radiation therapy services will be housed in a new 10,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center and the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Medical Pavilion. The hospital is working on plans for the building, which will be complete in December 2015.

St. Luke’s applied for a Certificate of Need to purchase the equipment to offer this type of radiation therapy in 2009 but was denied.

“But what we did differently, was explain how much the world of health care has changed in the last five years,” said Ted Townsend, the hospital’s president and CEO. He said St. Luke’s also told the council about its goals to offer patients better coordination of care.

“We want to be able to offer all of the services they need in one place,” he said.

The hospital provides diagnostic, surgical, restorative, and preventive cancer services to patients. According to St. Luke’s, the hospital provided cancer services to 56 percent of all inpatient medical oncology and surgical oncology patients discharged from a Cedar Rapids hospital during the last five years.

Dr. Rasa Buntinas, an oncologist at PCI who spoke in support to the facilities council, said the hospital provides intraoperative radiation therapy services, which is a dose of radiation done while the patient is undergoing surgery.

“But if they required radiation therapy, they would have to go outside of the system to get it,” she said. “We have a great program and team of surgeons, oncologists and support but one thing we’re lacking was radiation therapy.”

Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids opposed the acquisition of radiation therapy equipment at St. Luke’s because the hospital believes there is no established need for additional radiation therapy resources in the area.

Mercy Medical Center, which also offers a full spectrum of cancer care, including detection, medical oncology and chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and survivorship programs, has three linear accelerators — the machine used for radiation therapy.

Mercy Medical’s “Hall Radiation Center, which has served this community since 1956, has sufficient capacity to meet the needs in the community for the foreseeable future, and currently operates at 60 percent capacity,” the hospital said in a statement. “In addition, there are currently 12 linear accelerators already operating in the Eastern Iowa service area providing radiation therapy.”

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