Cancer hospital moves up opening date to Aug. 15; local economy can expect a jump-start


The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has moved up the opening of its Newnan hospital - pictured in the above artist's rendering - to Aug. 15.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER Cancer Treatment Centers of America has moved up its opening date from September 2012 to Aug. 15. Kane Dawson, president and chief executive officer for CTCA, told the Newnan Kiwanis Club on Tuesday about the new opening date. He spoke to the club during its noon meeting at Newnan Country Club.
"We've got excellent partners in our construction team," Dawson said. "We're all blessed to have this building coming out of the ground just behind Ashley Park." He outlined some of the reasons the hospital is in Newnan. Dawson said the company considered 13 sites, narrowed those to three and then showed those sites to 11 patients -- who chose Newnan. "They loved the historic downtown and the vibrant downtown foot traffic," Dawson said. They also liked the idea of being close to Ashley Park where family members could walk shop, eat or watch a movie. He also spoke of Greg Wright and Brenda Washington of the Coweta County Development Authority and several other people "who understood the value" of having the hospital here. The proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was also a plus. "Two-thirds of the patients will come from outside the state," Dawson said. When CTCA builds a new location, "you'll see hotels go up," Dawson said. "The economy will be stimulated by people coming to town." He said the Philadelphia hospital brings an average of 300 people to town every day. About 60 staff members will be relocating from other CTCA facilities -- buying homes and services. "It's been really easy to recruit," he said. Dawson said there also will be about 100 new staff members from the local area initially. His goal within five years is to have a $500 million economic impact and 500-600 employees. The 220,000-square-foot facility is "designed to expand as we grow," he said. Dawson talked about CTCA's approach. He explained the hospitals hire doctors who can then focus on helping patients. He said the average oncologist in private practice sees 30-40 patients per day, compared to CTCA doctors, who see 12-15. "We want them to spend time with the patients every day," Dawson said. The typical CTCA patient is late stage or has a complex cancer. Many have found the hospital through friends or the Internet and have taken steps to get there -- often including hopping on an airplane. "The folks who select us are typically fighters," Dawson said. CTCA patients are surrounded by a support system, and the hospitals have a good record for recovery. He said it is hard to determine exactly what parts of the process bring healing. The hospitals focus on "not just a clinical outcome" but "a quality of life" -- enabling people to attend a graduation or wedding, stand and walk with dignity or experience life without pain. CTCA will be bringing in technology "that doesn't exist anywhere else in Georgia." Dawson said the Newnan hospital will start out with medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists. Some other specialties -- urology and cardiology among them -- will be handled through partnership agreements. Dawson said CTCA officials have been meeting with leaders from Piedmont Newnan Hospital. He said Piedmont will also be able to attract new specialties as its new hospital opens. "That will be good for the community, as well," he said. Dawson related the history of CTCA. In 1980, Mary Stephenson was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Her son, Richard, a merchant banker, looked for the options for the best care for her and was sorely disappointed in what he found. Questions about the role of nutrition in cancer treatment were referred to a nutritionist, and questions about spiritual support were virtually ignored. Doctors often did not communicate with each other. Stephenson's mother died, and he began a quest "to change the face of cancer care," Dawson said. Stephenson bought out other investors in a hospital in Zion, Ill. He "hired physicians who shared his view" that cancer treatment is "about the patient," Dawson said. CTCA was one of the first medical facilities to advertise. The company also has used focus groups to drive its work. Dawson said, for example, that the company ended agreements with other hospitals and sold freestanding physician practices when patients said they wanted everything under one roof. In response to patient demand, hospitals have been opened in Tulsa, Okla., and in Philadelphia, Penn. The company wanted to come to the South, but rules about certificates of need made it easier to start a West Coast branch before focusing on Georgia. Newnan City Councilman George Alexander, who is a Kiwanian, said he went to Chicago on his own to tour the CTCA hospital there. Then he went back unannounced and talked with patients. "Every one of them talked about how everything revolved around them, everything's about the patients," said Alexander, who described CTCA as "a first class operation." "I can promise you CTCA will be a good neighbor for Newnan," Dawson said.

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