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CAMC ready to light 'beacon of hope'

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Patients who visit the future Charleston Area Medical Center's cancer center will see mountains and an abundance of natural light through the facility's numerous windows, a hospital official said.

CAMC released images Friday of what the 100,000-square-foot building in Kanawha City is expected to look like.

"People will be able to look out the windows and see mountains, which is very comforting to a West Virginian," said John Ziebold, chairman of the hospital's cancer center fundraising campaign, "The Power of Many." "During your chemotherapy, it helps if you can get to the outdoors in some way. At this center, you will have total [contact] with the outside."

The three-story, state-of-the-art health-care facility will have a wealth of windows and yellow brick.

Patients will be able to get some fresh air on the garden terrace on the center's second floor.

For those who need a serene, short walk, a memory garden will be located directly under the garden terrace - near the center's entrance.

Gail Pitchford, president of the CAMC Foundation, said details about the memory garden are still undecided, but CAMC employees -- who "came together for the first campaign to raise $560,000 for the memory garden," -- want a water feature and benches, she said.

Pitchford said she is excited for the public to see the outpatient cancer center's exterior for the first time because it was designed for those who need it most.

"The patients will see the exterior pictures and it will give them a level of comfort. They can say, 'I have cancer and I have to get through this and I need somewhere to do that.' This center is where they can heal,'" Pitchford said. "This center is taking into consideration the beauty of our state."

David Ramsey, CAMC's chief executive officer, said the cancer center's interior will incorporate natural materials, such as stone and wood. The center's planning committee is still working with architects to make decisions about details regarding aesthetics, Ramsey said.

The center will be erected on the land where Watt Powell Park once stood and will face MacCorkle Avenue.

Ramsey said workers are in "phase one" of construction. They are creating a turn-lane at 33rd Street to make the center easily accessible to patients.

Construction workers will break ground at the site in January, he said.

The cancer center is scheduled to be completed in December 2014 and will open its doors to the first patient in January 2015, he said.

"When this is all said and done, it will have been about a six-year journey," Ramsey said. "To think we conceptualized the cancer center ... and to have all this enthusiasm, to be able to take care of the first patient will be a magical moment."

The driving force behind building the cancer center is, regrettably, the growing number of people who are diagnosed with cancer, Ramsey said. More and more people are visiting Charleston for their cancer needs, he said.

About 45 percent of the people who visit the existing David Lee Cancer Center are from outside Kanawha County, Ramsey said.

More than 10,000 West Virginians will be diagnosed with cancer this year, while one in two men and one in three women in the country will have cancer sometime in their lives, he said.

From 2004 to 2011, the number of patients who went to the David Lee Cancer Center more than doubled, from 17,000 to 40,000 patients, Pitchford said.

"We are providing an environment that is conducive to healing," she said.

One of the most significant changes from the David Lee Cancer Center to the CAMC  cancer center (Ramsey said an official name has yet to be decided) is the "great room."

Pitchford said that when patients walk into the David Lee Cancer Center today, they see a crowded waiting room that has an "uncomfortable feeling."

The great room is a three-story tall room on the first floor that is "inviting," "beautiful" and will have a central seating area and fireplace for visitors, she said.

The first floor also will feature a wig and prosthesis shop, a café and coffee shop, a patient reference library, waiting rooms and Charleston Radiation Therapy Consultants.

The David Lee Cancer Center will occupy the entire second floor of the new building.

Ramsey said there are no definite plans for the third floor. The space will remain open so that the cancer center has room to grow, he said.

The CAMC Foundation has raised more than $12 million in its grass-roots campaign. The goal is to raise $15 million of the total $40 million cost.

More than 1,600 people have donated anywhere from $2 to $2 million, Pitchford said.

On Nov. 28, CAMC's board approved a resolution to seek requests for proposals from local and national banks to borrow up to $50 million for the hospital's upcoming projects. Ramsey said $24 million of that would go toward building the cancer center.

The physicians who work at Charleston Radiation Therapy Consultants will pay the remaining $1 million, because they are occupying a majority of the center's first floor, Ramsey said.

To donate or to learn more about the cancer center visit www.camcfoundation.org.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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