Erie area cancer care services provided through the Regional Cancer Center will be undergoing changes, according to a statement released Wednesday.

UPMC Hamot and Saint Vincent plan to expand their oncology programs independently.

Both will remain at the Regional Cancer Center during this period and ensure care is not interrupted.

The members hospitals will also install new radiation equipment within the coming month, so patients can receive cancer care at the Regional Cancer Center.

So cancer services in the Erie region will change in the next few years, as each partner hospital moves independently to form their own cancer care programs. Erie News Now spoke with presidents of both UPMC Hamot and Saint Vincent to learn more about what this means for Erie area cancer care.

Saint Vincent Hospital released the following statement to Erie News Now Wednesday afternoon:

“For almost three decades, the RCC has been an essential, life-saving resource for cancer patients in our community and it has been an honor to help carry on its vital mission,” said Christopher Clark, DO, President of SVH. “We are equally excited however about the future of cancer care in Erie, with patients having more choices for world-class cancer care, and as we move forward at Saint Vincent in building a state-of-the-art cancer center that will unite in one location every clinical and support service possible for cancer patients.”      

“Construction of the new Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute cancer center at SVH is expected to begin in in a few months, pending regulatory approvals, with an expected opening in the fourth quarter of 2019.   When complete, the facility will offer patients unique access to the full spectrum of integrated cancer care, including medical, radiation and surgical oncology services, supportive and holistic therapies, home and community services, and care coordination and support through patient navigation and financial counseling    Patients at SVH  will also have access to academic specialty-based cancer therapies and cancer clinical trials in Erie through collaborations with the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute quaternary programs at Allegheny General Hospital and West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine.“

Clark says the Saint Vincent facility will allow patients to have all of their cancer care services in one place, "We're excited at Saint Vincent to promote that we're going to have a brand new cancer program on our campus, a fully integrated comprehensive program to offer cancer care to patients in our community, said Clark. "In the future, when our program is built and open, then we'll have a choice for patients to have cancer services delivered at one location on our campus, we'll be able to offer more services and again all centralized on our campus," Clark continued.

David Gibbons, President at UPMC Hamot says this move will allow them to offer quality cancer care to even more patients in the region, "It is our vision from the board of directors of UPMC Hamot that cancer is a critical service to the institution, and I can assure the public that UPMC will continue to provide cancer services now in partnership with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center," said Gibbons. "For us at UPMC Hamot this is a monumental announcement, as predicated previously with MaGee-Womens and also our collaboration with the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, both programs at Hamot have been phenomenally successful and this will yet be the next chapter of success for UPMC Hamot," Gibbons continued.

Gibbons says UPMC Hamot may purchase the RCC building and provide services there, or expand their cancer care program at their new $111 Million patient tower to be built on its downtown Erie campus over the next couple of years, "We recognize the value of the RCC it's a wonderful location, it's a beautiful building, the parking is very easy, it's accessible to the main arteries," said Gibbons. "As we've negotiated with Saint Vincent, UPMC Hamot has the exclusive right to purchase or to lease the building on West 12th street. So over the next several months, working with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, with the UPMC Hamot board, we will evaluate those options," Gibbons continued.

The Regional Cancer Center announced in June 2016 its chemotherapy services would move to infusion centers at Saint Vincent and UPMC Hamot Hospitals.

At the time, the Cancer Center said the move allows it to take care of drug purchasing benefits, patient support services, information technology and other benefits at the hospitals. Current space is also limited at the Cancer Center's facilities.

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