Roper plans new cancer center

Charleston Post and Courier
Allyson Bird
December 5, 2008

Roper St. Francis Healthcare plans to build a three-story cancer center at its West Ashley campus that it says will give patients hospital services in a more relaxing setting.

Roper recently filed a preliminary request for approval for a 76,000-square-foot outpatient cancer facility at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital on Henry Tecklenburg Drive. It plans to break ground by summer and finish the building by the summer of 2010.

A rendering of the three-story outpatient cancer center that Roper St. Francis Healthcare is seeking approval to build.

“We will be able to serve a range of needs without patients having to step foot in an in-patient hospital,” said Scott Broome, service line director for the cancer center. “Inpatient hospitals sometimes have that sterile feel. This will not.”

Instead, patients will see a long building that, based on an architectural rendering, more closely resembles a hotel with arched entryways and white columns. The project will cost about $19 million and will be funded by a combination of debt and equity financing, according to Broome.

“We’re cautious but our health system is financially operating in a very strong position,” he said. “We see the need is there.”

In South Carolina, cancer strikes more than 21,000 people annually. Nearly 9,000 people are expected to die from the disease this year.

Broome said the proposed center is an extension of the specialty services Roper already offers its cancer patients, and he doesn’t see it competing with the much larger Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Conceptually, the idea began as far back as 2004, Broome said. It reflects a national movement away from treating cancer only inside major urban hospitals. It also reflects residential growth in the area around Bon Secours St. Francis.

“The peninsula isn’t really growing, but West Ashley is growing,” Broome said.

Roper St. Francis treats more breast, colorectal and prostate cancer patients than any other provider in the market, Broome said. Though the St. Francis facility in West Ashley currently provides chemotherapy, Roper patients now receive radiation therapy exclusively at the downtown Charleston hospital.

Known by its working title, Outpatient Cancer Center at St. Francis Hospital, the new facility will provide chemotherapy and radiation, along with other routine cancer procedures and a few extras.

The center will offer a patient resource library and a retail store with wigs, prostheses and specially designed garments. An alternative therapy space will include exercise, music and massage.

“They don’t necessarily treat the cancer but they support the patient,” Broome said.

With architectural design for the building nearly complete, Roper has selected Trident Construction as its general contractor, according to hospital officials.

The 2010 completion date closely coincides with Roper’s time frame for finishing an 85-bed, full-service hospital in Mount Pleasant. That project is expected to cost $143 million.

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