Shared from the 5/16/2021 Greenwich Time eEdition

Cancer care key to hospital expansion

Greenwich Hospital aims to capture greater market share

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Greenwich Hospital

The site of a proposed cancer care facility on Lake Avenue and Lafayette Place would measure 55,000 square feet.

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Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Greenwich Hospital President Diane Kelly at Greenwich Hospital last July.

GREENWICH — Greenwich Hospital is looking to establish itself as a regional cancer-care center in coming years, as part of a longterm plan to treat rising rates of cancer and capture a greater market share of the regional health care field.

President Diane Kelly outlined the ambitious strategy behind a major expansion of the medical facilities for Greenwich planning commissioners this week, spelling out the new kinds of specialties that the hospital is looking to provide.

Kelly said the hospital administrators had looked “long and hard” at medical data and cancer statistics as part of its expansion plan. She said the institution was looking to attract patients that are now going to other facilities around the northeast, as well as to ensure residents of Greenwich and nearby communities who use the hospital could seek care closer to home.

“We are very data driven in our decisions in what services we are going to provide,” Kelly told the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the hospital had embarked on a detail-oriented plan for a new facility to accommodate a growing number of cancer specialties.

Kelly said the hospital had already begun to add staff, thanks to an an ongoing and deepening partnership with Yale Medical School and Yale-New Haven Health. A brain-cancer specialist had been hired, she said, and had recently purchased a home in Greenwich, while maintaining a teaching position at Yale Medical School. The hospital was also making commitments to improve its offerings in cancer treatment for tumors of the lung, colon, ovaries and prostate, she said, as well as other related fields in oncology.

“In all of our areas, we are broadening the services that we have,” Kelly said. The hospital was also adding capabilities to its “hallmark” treatment for breast cancer, the president said, and it is looking to do more clinical trials that would be “extremely beneficial” to patients facing aggressive forms of the disease.

The new Smilow Cancer Center, as it is being called, measuring some 55,000 square feet on Lafayette Place and Lake Street, would be two stories tall and accommodate the new specialty practices and various support services.

The hospital has been losing many cancer patients in its service area, a population of around 500,000 people stretching from the communities in and around Stamford through Greenwich and into a wide swath of Westchester County, N.Y., according to the administration. Cancer patients are going to other medical facilities in the New York City area, Boston, or other parts of Connecticut, Kelly said, the new addition is aimed at reversing that trend.

“The more we are bringing in these specialists, people find them,” the hospital president said. “We need space for that. We can attract top talent, and we can get top equipment, when we have the right plan for it, and hoping we have a community that can support that.”

According to hospital data, some 464 people in the Greenwich Hospital service area were diagnosed with cancer over a recent one-year period, and only 164 came to Greenwich Hospital for treatment.

For brain cancer and cancers of the nervous system, 84 new cases were diagnosed, and only 15 came to Greenwich Hospital for treatment. For prostate cancer, which is expected to rise 11 percent in the market area in the next ten years, 79 cases were treated in Greenwich, out of a total of 661 new cases, Kelly said.

The expansion will also benefit the local community. “We strongly believe people should not have to drive more than 30 minutes for cancer care,” she said, “This takes a lot out of someone. If you’re sick, and you need to do this, two three or four times a week, it’s a big deal. If you can do it locally, you should.”

Roughly 40 percent of the patients at Greenwich Hospital live in town, the rest come from other communities nearby. “There is no hospital that could actually survive on a population of 60,000 people. We draw people from different areas,” Kelly noted, and attracting and maintaining a steady caseload was an imperative for institutional success.

Dr. Dickerman Hollister, director of medical oncology at the hospital, said the proposed additions and new staffing had been generating a sense of excitement. “With the new cancer center, it’s a nice building, but it’s really the people, the physicians, that are going to make this thing fly,” he said.

Lori Contadino, director of the Greenwich Commission on Aging, said improvements to the local medical facilities would be a welcome addition to Greenwich seniors.

“Older adults do have a strong preference for getting medical care, whether routine or serious, here in town,” she wrote in an email. Besides having a local hospital offering a wide range of medical services, she said, it was also important to have “a comprehensive continuum of health services that provide optimal care to older adults,” so they can stay in their homes.

Having high-end medical services within a short distance was a definite plus, Contadino continued. “Access to top-notch health care and specialty care enhances the well-being of the patient, support for the family and strengthens the overall health of a community,” she said.

Jill McDonald Halsey, vice-president of the the Connecticut Hospital Association, said hospitals had to adapt to changing circumstances in the healthcare field.

“Connecticut’s communities count on their hospitals to respond to changing healthcare needs, and hospitals are evolving to address those changing demands. As life-saving treatment options continue to expand for serious illnesses like cancer, patients appreciate the comfort of being able to access those essential services closer to home,” she said.

Well-resourced hospitals were always a benefit to the region and the communities they served, she continued. “Strong hospitals and health systems are an asset to the communities they serve, providing skilled care and emergency response, employment, and critical economic development.”

According to the hospital administration, the hospital expects to break ground on the new building in 2022 and have it operational in three years, should approvals follow as expected. Review by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission is ongoing.

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