The thousands of cancer patients treated annually at El Camino Hospital will soon have expanded options with the upgraded Cancer Center, scheduled to open this month in a new location.
The $5.5 million expansion in Oak Pavilion on South Drive in Mountain View nearly doubles the size of the center’s current 6,000-square-foot suite in Melchor Pavilion, down the street.
Hospital officials hope that the larger space will make patient visits more convenient and comfortable, said Dr. Shyamali Singhal, medical director of the Cancer Center.
“With easier-to-navigate services and faster access to physician experts and treatment, we can enhance the patient experience and provide the quality care patients deserve,” she said.
The new center includes 10 exam rooms and 18 chemotherapy infusion bays with memory-foam chairs and radiant-heat panels. The facility features an in-house laboratory and pharmacy, enabling faster turnaround of test results and access to infusion therapy, according to Dolores Esparza, executive director of the Cancer Center.
“No wait time for patients – that’s our goal,” she said. “We want to be able to move them quickly and get them home. We want to give them back their minutes.”
The hospital board approved funding for the Cancer Center in 2005, and it opened to patients in 2007. Every year since opening, the center has treated approximately 2,000 new patients, Esparza said. On a typical day, 60 patients receive exams and 45 undergo chemotherapy. The increased number of chemotherapy infusion bays – eight more – means patients won’t need to wait for their treatment, Esparza noted.
Cancer Center patient Rachel Michelson, a Mountain View resident, said she looks forward to the increase in programs that support patients even after they are finished with medical treatment. Michelson, 40, was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer three years ago and now shows no symptoms of the disease.
“Cancer starts with treatment, but there’s never really an end date,” she said. “Even if you’re 10 years out of the hard core, it’s always part of your life. El Camino Hospital has programs to facilitate that healing.”
Michelson said she most appreciates the Cancer Center’s level of personal care.
“I think in other institutions, you could be treated more as a statistic,” she said. “That’s not the case here. Your treatment plan is specified for your needs.”
The center’s expanded programs include integrated services such as genetic counseling, nutrition counseling and a survivorship program. The center will be open later into evening hours to give patients and their families more appointment options, Esparza said.
Patients receive treatment from one of three oncology practitioners, in addition to a full staff of nurses, social workers, bilingual schedulers and navigators who guide patients through the integrated services.
“As a navigator starts exploring, they begin to understand patients’ problems and ways to make them aware of resources,” Esparza said.
And at the new center, resources are often just a room away.
To make way for the improved facility, El Camino Hospital completely remodeled the interior of the Oak Pavilion building, aiming to streamline services and convey a tranquil, quiet environment.
“It’s not going to feel clinical. It’s not a scary place, and I think that’s so important,” Michelson said. “When you’re there so much, it’s important that it not be scary.”
The new building includes a healing room for support-group meetings, art therapy, a designated room for specialists to coordinate patients’ care and nutrition and yoga classes. A resource room encourages patients to research their illnesses alongside nutritionists and social workers. The center’s boutique allows patients to shop for headscarves, hats, lotions, jewelry and other retail items. Esparza said patients could also rent iPads to use during their treatments, some of which can take up to six hours.
“When you’re in ‘Cancer Land,’” Michelson said, “you want the best not just for your health, but for your mind and body, and I believe the center has achieved that.”
Next step in care
The new Cancer Center is the next step in nearly a decade of service.
“This expansion fills a community need and builds on El Camino Hospital’s rich history of coordinated care for our patients,” said Tomi Ryba, president and CEO of El Camino Hospital.
The center has received recognition for its five-year survival outcomes for patients with breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers. The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons recently issued a three-year Accreditation with Commendation to El Camino – the highest accreditation for a community hospital.
“I think this shows that they’re really committed to it being a community hospital,” Michelson said of the new center. “It’s really impressive that while it’s growing, it keeps that small-town feel. … It’s a pretty stressful environment, and you never feel that way as patient.”
For more information, call 988-8338 or visit elcaminohospital.org/cancer_center.