Central Maine Healthcare President and CEO Jeff Brickman walks past an artist rendering of the proposed cancer center during a community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — About 100 people — most of them associated with Central Maine Healthcare — listened Wednesday evening as doctors and officials from the health system listed all the reasons why CMHC needs to build a $35million cancer center in the city.

It will allow Central Maine Medical Center to replace its aging radiation equipment, they said.

It will allow the hospital to consolidate its cancer treatment in one location, they said.

It will improve care, enhance partnerships and potentially bring more clinical trials and more treatment options to patients, they said.

Central Maine Healthcare board member Austin Albert shares a story about his own experience with cancer during the cancer center community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“This is an exciting opportunity for Central Maine,” CEO Jeff Brickman told the crowd. “This is an exciting opportunity for the community of Lewiston-Auburn.”

Held at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston, the Wednesday evening forum invited the public for the first time to learn about the project directly from CMHC leaders and to ask questions.

CMHC has proposed creating a 50,000-square-foot cancer center at the northeast section of CMMC’s Lewiston campus, bordered by Holland Street to the north, High Street to the south and Main Street to the east. The center would replace the current outpatient cancer program at the hospital.

The proposed center, to be built by a developer and leased over 20 years by CMHC, is slated to cost about $35 million, including the price of new equipment. With interest and leasing costs, it is expected to cost CMHC about $38 million.

Because of its size and price tag, the proposed cancer center requires certificate of need approval from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in order to move forward. As part of that recent application, CMHC emphasized that it provides “critical regional access to cancer care” as one of six outpatient radiation sites in Maine and the only one in this region. For about 200,000 residents, it said, CMMC in Lewiston is the closest option.

During the forum, CMHC leaders and three cancer specialists again emphasized the need for a new cancer center.

“We need to be relevant. We need to be in existence,” Brickman said. “Today, the physical condition of our clinical equipment and our facilities threaten that very essential fact.”

An artist rendering of the proposed cancer center was on display during the community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Brickman also emphasized that after significant financial problems and upheaval in recent years, CMHC’s outlook has greatly improved.

“We had to do a lot of work to restore your confidence as we’ve gone though a highly publicized journey toward stability and relevance,” he said.

Most questions from the audience centered around the project’s timeline, details and logistics. A representative from the state told the crowd that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services will decide whether or not to approve the center by the end of March.

But while most audience questions centered around the building itself, area doctor Alfred Riel questioned the project’s financial feasibility if the federal government changes the way it pays for cancer care as part of health care reform.

“It’s a wonderful plan. Admirable,” Riel said. “But if suddenly they cut what they reimburse for radiation oncology, which is very generous now, you may not be able to pay for it. We need some detailed assurances.”

Brickman said CMHC has worked to keep costs low and diversify its programs, positioning it to “withstand some of the vagaries of state and federal reimbursement.”

“Our greater strategy to reinvent the way health care is provided in this state so that we’re not dependent on high-cost procedures to keep our doors open,” he said.

If approved, the cancer center could break ground next fall or winter, according to Mike Anderegg, CMHC vice president for service line strategy. The building could be completed by 2022.

 

 

Community members attend the cancer center community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

An aerial photograph that shows where the cancer center would be located along Main Street was on display during the community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Community members attend the cancer center community forum at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

 


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