Providence Services Eastern Washington affiliates Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital have launched a joint pilot study to assess cancer support services in the Spokane area and identify cancer sufferers unmet needs.
The analysis, which is expected to take a number of months to complete, is the first phase of a planned collaborative effort to establish a new cancer support-services program here. The goal of the program will be to integrate the many cancer services available in the communitysuch as counseling and educationin a way that helps patients and families adjust to the impact of cancer and maintain an optimal quality of life, representatives for the two hospitals say.
We are really just getting started and feeling our way, says Anna Quincy, a longtime registered nurse at Sacred Heart with extensive education and experience in oncology, who has been named to coordinate the effort. Nevertheless, she says shes excited about the potential for the program to improve cancer-care coordination here.
Toni Cooley, director of oncology services at Sacred Heart and radiation oncology at Holy Family, says the trauma that cancer sufferers already experience shouldnt be intensified by frustrating gaps in support services. Its a horrible journey, but to make it a little bit easier would be an ideal outcome of the new program, she says.
Initially, the program will offer classes about cancer treatment and managing side effects, support groups, psychosocial counseling, nutritional and financial counseling, and access to the Providence Faith and Healing Center next to Sacred Heart, Quincy says. Other services will be added based on identified needs.
One of the challenges the hospitals face is how to provide cancer support services to a segment of the market that the institutions dont normally focus on, Quincy says. The hospitals are set up to serve people who are admitted or receiving outpatient services, but through the new program they also will seek to reach out to people in their homes who really arent their patients anymore, she says.
The cancer support-services program is an outgrowth of several years of discussion among Spokanes two main hospital groups, doctors, and others about a possible cancer-care cooperative venture, but it comes at a time of increased competition among nonprofit and for-profit, cancer-care providers here.
PSEW and Empire Health Services, which operates Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital & Medical Center, earlier this year halted related talks about collaborating to develop a stand-alone regional cancer center here.
Inland Northwest Health Services, a nonprofit agency formed by Spokanes four largest hospitals, had announced in July 1997 that it, along with local physicians, intended to develop a regional outpatient cancer center here. After many discussions, though, the involved parties failed to reach an agreement, and the hospitals decided to continue operating their various programs independently.
A Spokane oncology-hematology medical group also had negotiated with Spokanes hospitals on a possible collaboration of services, but began making plans to open its own cancer-care centers after those talks also failed.
Through a new entity called Cancer Care Northwest PS, the groups doctors collaborated with a big Houston-based company called US Oncology Inc. to develop and open a $7 million cancer-treatment center southeast of downtown Spokane two years ago. Cancer Care Northwest now operates three treatment centers here, following the recent opening of one in the Northpointe Office Plaza on Spokanes North Side. Its doctors also participate in a visiting physicians clinic at Pioneer Medical Center, in Moses Lake, twice a month.
Holy Family, perhaps in particular, has felt the presence of Cancer Care Northwest, as several oncologists have left the North Side hospital to join that growing private enterprise. Holy Family recently added a new medical oncologist, Dr. Arvind Chaudhry, as part of an effort to replace that lost expertise.
Quincy and Cooley deny that Providence Services efforts to develop a cancer support-services program is a response to the rising competition.
This program really is a result of discussion that occurred in the community when all four hospitals were talking about having the (regional) cancer center, Quincy says. The whole idea of support services was very warmly embraced, particularly by the nursing community. The nurses from Holy Family and Sacred Heart went to their administrations and said this is a very important nugget of the whole concept of cancer centers.
Based on the broad support shown for a cancer support-services program during those years of discussion, even as other collaborative attempts failed, We would have wanted to go ahead with this no matter what, she says.
Cooley says the program isnt an effort to expand the hospitals cancer-care services, but rather to enhance what we have. As for the competitive forces, she says, We have several competitors, but that doesnt mean PSEW would deny cancer support to a patient whos being treated at Cancer Care Northwest rather than by one of its hospitals doctors.
Quincy says two registered nurses have been assigned to gather data for the pilot study. Dr. Mel Haberman, of the Washington State University College of Nursing, and WSU-Spokane assistant professor Carol Molinari are assisting with the project, which should be completed by around the end of this year, she says. The hospitals likely will begin implementing the support-services program soon thereafter, Quincy says.
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