Originally created 04/15/04

Retirees will reap benefits of Aiken's new cancer wing



AIKEN - Aiken County's burgeoning retirement community will be the prime beneficiary of a new $7 million cancer wing at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, hospital officials said Wednesday.

The 16,000 square-foot Cancer Care Institute of Carolina, which officially opens Saturday, is twice the size of the hospital's old cancer clinic and is equipped with the latest high-tech equipment, allowing the staff to care for more patients in a more efficient way, said K.D. Justyn, the hospital's chief executive officer.

"For our senior population, this should be more comfortable for them," she said.

"Obviously, our population is more retirement-oriented and we want to offer these services to them."

The center is divided into two sections, one for radiation treatment and the other for chemotherapy. The new facility also has a radiation vault that houses a $1.2 million linear accelerator, a machine that generates radiation from electricity.

The chemotherapy room is triple the size of the old room and can treat up to 26 patients at time. A courtyard separates the two treatment area, giving chemotherapy patients a pleasant view while they receive treatment.

With new equipment in each section, patients no longer have to travel to the main hospital for CT scans or blood work. All the equipment is networked, allowing doctors to pull files from any computer in the center.

"Previously we had to send patients to the hospital to get some work done, but now we have most of what we need in this building," said Dr. Ahmad Gill, an oncologist working at the center. "Having everything in one building makes us more efficient."

Suzanne Messick, 53, who has received treatment for breast cancer at the old center and the new center, which has been used to treat patients since March 15, said the difference between the two is remarkable.

"It's like the difference between a bungalow and a mansion," she said. "We were cramped before in a small room to get the chemotherapy and now there is so much open space and the design of the building just gives you a more positive attitude."

But Mrs. Messick said the biggest difference about the new center is that doctors stress education and support for the disease.

"There are meeting spaces for support groups and a lot of space for patients to bond with each other. That's important because we're all in this together."

Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said the cancer center will be a great asset to Aiken's retirement community.

"This is what retired people look for when they are looking for a place to live," he said.

Reach Peter Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395 or peter.gilchrist@augustachronicle.com.

A NEW LOOK

Aiken Regional Medical Centers’ Cancer Care Institute of Carolina is twice the size of the previous center and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

Cost: $7 million

Size: 16,000 square feet

Equipment: linear accelerator for radiation treatment, CT simulator, new chest X-ray system, expanded pharmacy, 26 seats for chemotherapy IV treatments

Location: 111 Miracle Dr ive, across from the University of South Carolina Aiken

Opens: Saturday

Source: Aiken Regional Medical Centers