‘A remarkable day’
Union Hospital opens Radiation Oncology Center
— Union Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System celebrated the opening of the new downtown Radiation Oncology Center this week, with officials praising the facility for the local care it will bring to county residents.
“We’re excited, we’ve waited quite a while for this,” said Dr. Richard Szumel, Union Hospital President and CEO, prior to the
Monday night ribbon cutting.
Looking around at the standing-room-only attendance on Monday night, it would seem the county community shares Szumel’s enthusiasm.
The center is a result of the ongoing partnership between Union Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System, and will offer residents in the county and surrounding areas oncology radiology treatments, among other services. Work on the $9 million project began earlier this year and the center officially opened on
Nov. 1. Since its opening, 13 patients have been treated, said Erika Maynor, senior director of operations at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s radiation oncology department.
Union Hospital patients won’t have to go far for the state-of-the-art care, as the new center is located at 152 Railroad Ave., where the Medical Adult Day Services was previously located. That facility has been relocated to a newly renovated space in Southfield Park Center near Redner’s off Route 213, south of town.
The new facility is so important to the care of county residents, because Cecil County continues to have one of the highest rates of cancer in the state, Szumel noted during the ceremony, adding that though several efforts have been able to reduce the number of cancer incidents and deaths, “we still have a lot of work to do.”
“Let our new pediatric wing in the hospital, known as Nemours duPont Pediatrics at Union Hospital, and this absolutely wonderful radiation oncology center, known as University of Maryland Radiation Oncology Center at Union Hospital, be evidence that we will collaborate and partner wherever possible and however possible to bring that safe, high-quality health care to our residents right here in Cecil County,” he said.
Robert Chrencik, UMMS president and CEO, said one of his organization’s key goals is to work together with its community partners, such as Union Hospital, to make sure patients are receiving the care they need locally.
“Today is a remarkable day, but for the folks who live in this county, it’s an even more remarkable day,” Chrencik said, noting that, in the past, patients had to travel to Bel Air or Christiana, Del., for cancer treatment. “I love coming out to these kinds of events because this is the great part; the real winner here is not the University of Maryland, it’s not Union Hospital, the winner is the citizens of this county.”
More than the great facilities, what the new radiation oncology center really represents is hope, said Dr. William Regine, chairman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s radiation oncology department and executive director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center.
Previously, about 50 percent of the center’s patients needed certain treatments and technology that took them out of the county, Regine noted.
“Beyond the advanced technology, we now bring access to clinical trials and cuttingedge therapy that was not as available to the extent at which it is now,” he said. “You now have access to all of the resources that 95 percent of the cancer patients who need care. For that five percent who need anything in addition, there’s a direct pipeline to downtown Baltimore. We’re there to serve you and all of the people in this region.”
The new center offers onsite treatment planning, as well as onsite imaging, internal modular radiation therapy and selective internal radiation therapy, said Dr. Heather Curry, medical director of the center. Patients will also have access to UMMS resources, such as new opportunities to participate in National Cancer Institute radiation clinical trials and consultations with University of Maryland doctors, among other resources.
The center also has a new state-of-the-art linear accelerator, a unit that houses the radiation that is delivered to patients’ cancer sites via a process known as external beam radiation therapy. To house the accelerator, a 3-footthick concrete wall and lead vault had to be built at the west end of the existing building.
The facility also has a brand new CT scan simulator, which takes scans of the patient from all angles to determine and track a customized treatment. Dosimetrists, or treatment planners, will design treatment plans using the images and additional information. Physicists will monitor and regulate the equipment and radiation therapists will administer the treatments.
Prior to the center’s opening, local patients only had access to standard radiation treatment such as 3D conformal radiation and stereotactic body radiation therapy, Curry said.
A day before the center opened, the oncology unit that Christiana Care had operated in Elkton closed its doors after its lease ended on Oct. 31, Szumel said, noting the unit provided tremendous service for 20 years.
“What Christiana did for us, bringing our entire cancer program to where it is now, none of this would have been possible,” he said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Christiana for what they’ve done for us up to this point.”
The hospital’s next project is the $4.5 million Crisis Assessment and Stabilization Center. The facility will be built on a 3.5-acre parcel of land that sits between the Amtrak rail lines and Railroad Avenue in Elkton, across the street from the Radiation Oncology Center. Construction is slated to begin sometime this winter with the goal of completing as much as possible before the ground freezes, Szumel said.
This $3 million state-of-the-art linear accelerator is the chief radiation tool in the new University of Maryland Radiation Oncology Center at Union Hospital.