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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

$10 Million Roy Disney Donation to Kick-Start Cancer Center

Roy and Patricia Disney have been supporters of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center for years. Now they’ve stepped up to lend support once again, donating $10 million to help build what is perhaps the most comprehensive cancer center in the San Fernando Valley. “I was one of the first patients as a kid, having fallen down and got a concussion,” said Disney. “That makes it sound awful, but that’s what 13-year-old boys do. They had just finished painting the room, I think.” Disney, who said his parents and uncle, Walt, all died in the hospital and his children were patients when they were younger, has always felt a responsibility to support the hospital that sits across from Disney’s studios. “We’re very close to that place and have always felt a fundamental sense of obligation to it and to the Sisters of Providence and the medical staff that has been through there over many, many years.” Disney, who grew up in the Valley and still lives in Toluca Lake, said he was encouraged by the support that St. Joseph’s has received in building the cancer center. “The Valley has grown so fast. I still sort of think of it as the hinterlands, but it’s not anymore. I’m pleased that the Valley can afford to support the hospital,” Disney said. The Disneys’ donation will allow the hospital to start designing the center and deciding how to outfit the center with the latest technology, said hospital administrator Patrick Petre. “It’s really the seed money that we need to start planning in earnest,” said Petre. The hospital will spend $33 million on the center, which will open its doors for the first time in 2007. The center will be populated with specialists who run the gamut of cancer treatment, from medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and pathologists to counselors and hospice physicians. Patients will also have access to acupuncture, massage therapy and similar services. “For most patients, the goal is a cure whenever possible, and when a cure is not possible the goal is to improve the quality and duration of life people will have,” said Dr. Raul Mena, director of the cancer care program at St. Joseph’s. “The philosophy at St. Joseph’s over many years is to integrate the latest in care with a humanistic approach.” “It has been a big eye-opener as to how many people are dedicated to helping the community in which they live. When you get sick you’re going to need the hospital with the best doctors to get the best outcomes.” said Mena. “The need, Central location The center, which Providence describes as the most comprehensive in the Valley, will attract the best doctors and keep patients from having to drive to multiple offices during their treatment, Mena said. The hospital will also use a $1 million donation from the John Hench Foundation to build a resource center staffed by volunteers from the American Cancer Society, giving patients access to information about treatments and their effects as well as current clinical studies and social services available to cancer patients and their families. Petre said that St. Joseph’s cancer center will fill a significant need in the Valley. There are different cancer centers throughout Los Angeles County, the John Wayne Cancer Institute and the City of Hope in Duarte being most well-known, said Petre. Northridge Hospital Medical Center also maintains a cancer center, but Petre said that St. Joseph’s center will be the most comprehensive in the Valley. “With cancer treatment the key is literally one-stop service for cancer patients. Due to the nature of the illness, they’re required sometimes to go to multiple locations for oncology, radiation and surgery and another for spiritual care and dietary needs,” said Petre. “What we’re attempting to provide here is world class cancer treatment here in the city of Burbank so our market place does not have to leave the area.” Capital campaign Disney said that he and Mena have been discussing the cancer center for at least a year, but before any kind of progress could be made, the hospital board had to approve a capital campaign. “The status of health care is uncompensated care and poor reimbursement, with minimal margins to invest in our future. This is true for any hospital in the city. Most investments, purchases and the development of programs needs to be done through philanthropy,” Mena said. “(The board) felt the case was quite compelling and agreed to raise the money to build a free-standing cancer center.” Michael J. Madden, CEO of Providence Health System Southern California, said he expected the community to be rally around the cancer center, but didn’t expect such a high level of generosity. “We expected support, and as we went out and talked to different groups of people, they were very supportive of the project, but we surprised at the size of some of the gifts, especially the donation from Roy and Patty Disney,” said Madden. Providence, which owns four acute care hospitals as well as nursing homes and medical groups in Southern California, has been significantly expanding its presence in the San Fernando Valley. In addition to its cancer center, St. Joseph recently completed a new patient tower to comply with state seismic safety regulations. Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is in the process of expanding its emergency room and adding beds, and this summer the Providence Holy Cross Health Center, an outpatient treatment center, will open in Valencia to serve the growing Santa Clarita Valley population. Madden said that Providence has been playing a much larger role in the Valley’s health care system, and he expects that more hospitals will eventually close, giving Providence an even larger local presence. He said that the cancer center, while providing the highest quality of care to its patients, will also help the company negotiate good reimbursement rates from insurance companies. “The more support we have from the community will give us the ability to be recognized by payers as a group that they want to do business with,” said Madden.

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