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Shot in Arm For Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley residents will no longer have to travel long distances for cancer treatment. The City of Hope is constructing a comprehensive cancer center in Lancaster that will occupy much of the first floor of a new building next to Antelope Valley Hospital. The $20 million project at 15th St. West and Avenue J-5 is a partnership with the public 420-bed hospital, which provided the land for the center. The hospital will maintain a community education center with classrooms and a 200-seat auditorium on the building’s first floor. Office space for doctors will fill the second floor. The center allows City of Hope, an internationally known cancer treatment and research hospital headquartered in Duarte, to provide treatment to a broader population, said President Robert Stone. “We are able to coordinate care with other providers and take care directly into the community,” he said. Currently, Antelope Valley cancer patients must travel long distances for specialized treatment, whether that be to Duarte, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Los Angeles, USC Norris Cancer Hospital in East Los Angeles or UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Westwood. In addition to the Duarte facility, City of Hope has treatment centers in South Pasadena, Santa Clarita, Lancaster, and Palm Springs. The new cancer center, however, is the first time City of Hope has partnered with a hospital on a project. The existing Lancaster City of Hope medical office offers limited treatment with surgical oncology. The new center will offer more comprehensive services including radiology, medical oncology treatment of solid tumors and pediatric oncology for children. “We have already secured a medical oncologist and a urologist to join the surgeons who are already up there,” Stone said. City of Hope expects to draw patients from the north end of the Santa Clarita Valley, throughout the Antelope Valley and as far north as Ridgecrest and other small Inyo and Kern county cities. Cancer treatment is onerous on the patients and keeping them closer to home and their families brings a level of comfort that reduces stress, said Dr. Vijay Trisal, a surgeon with City of Hope at the Lancaster site. “If we do not treat it in the community (the patients) go elsewhere and find new physicians,” Trisal said. “They do not know those (patients) and they have to develop a new relationship with them.” Expanding care The City of Hope project comes at a time of new medical facilities in the Antelope Valley. In January 2011, Palmdale Regional Medical Center opened, bringing 150 private patient rooms, an emergency room and other needed services to the region. The private $200-million facility is owned by Universal Health Services Inc., a large hospital operator based in King of Prussia, Pa. Work also has started on Kaiser Permanente’s 100,000-square-foot specialty medical complex in Lancaster that will make space for up to 60 physicians ranging from orthopedists to bariatric surgeons. And the County of Los Angeles is adding more primary care services with its $142-million High Desert Health System Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center. The new building, roughly 142,000 square feet, will have room for multiple specialty services and primary care, as well as urgent care, radiation and laboratory space. Antelope Valley Hospital itself is in the midst of implementing its master facility plan that relocated its blood donor center to a larger, remodeled facility; moved the Outpatient Laboratory Services Department to a suite in a medical office building adjacent to the hospital; and opened a Comprehensive Wound Healing Center and new cafeteria. In June 2012, construction started on a new cardiovascular and neurological center. The reason for all the new facilities is simple – they fill a need. “Palmdale and Lancaster is one of the few areas left in Los Angeles County where there is a need for additional capacity,” said Jim Lott, executive director of the Hospital Association of Southern California, a trade group. “We are saturated in other parts of the county but not there.” Cancer centers are not new to Antelope Valley Hospital Chief Executive Edward Mirzabegian. He oversaw similar facilities at two Illinois hospitals prior to coming to California. The latest project got its start at the urging of City of Hope physicians, who encouraged Stone to meet with Mirzabegian about two years ago. The pair agreed the Antelope Valley could support a City of Hope outpatient facility. City of Hope is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer treatment centers in the nation as designated by the National Cancer Institute, a federal agency. Because Antelope Valley Hospital and City of Hope didn’t have the capital to build the center, a creative approach jumpstarted the project. While the hospital provided the land, G.L. Bruno Associates, a Fresno construction firm, was brought in to finance and construct the center and handle leasing of the second floor office space. The hospital and City of Hope will lease their space from Bruno as well. “This is part of Ed’s vision for what AV Hospital can provide,” Stone said. “But for that partnership we would not have gotten there ourselves.” Both City of Hope and Antelope Valley Hospital have future options to buy the center, Mirzabegian said. Bruno has also constructed, among other projects, the BSV Medical Plaza in Fresno, the Hanford Medical Pavilion in Hanford and is currently building the Rio Bravo Cancer and Imaging Center in Bakersfield. Completion of the Lancaster center is anticipated for late this year or early 2014. Once open, the center will represent a huge addition to medical care in the Antelope Valley, Mirzabegian said. “I’m very excited that people are going to be part of a project of this caliber,” he said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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