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CAMC cancer center price tag jumps $11M

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Changes to plans for Charleston Area Medical Center's new cancer center will cost the hospital about $11 million more than first estimated, hospital officials said Wednesday.

The hospital will spend $3 million more than it originally planned to move its breast center from CAMC Women & Children's Hospital to the new cancer center, and another $8 million on radiation oncology space, CAMC chief financial officer Larry Hudson said.

The new total cost for the David Lee Cancer Center, which will be built in Kanawha City on the former site of Watt Powell Park, will be about $50 million, said Dave Ramsey, CAMC's chief executive officer.

The hospital's original plans were to make the third floor of the cancer center space that later would house the breast center. The new plan is to move the breast center there sooner and make it bigger, Hudson said.

CAMC also had planned to sell space to Charleston Radiation Therapy Consultants, which would build out the space and practice radiation oncology there. Now, though, the hospital's plan is to finish that space and rent it to the physicians at a fair market rate, Hudson said.

There also will be changes to the plans for the cancer center's façade and its foundation, Ramsey said. Engineers found that the building's foundation needed upgrades because of its proximity to roads and railroad tracks, Ramsey said.

The West Virginia Health Care Authority has approved the changes to the plan without issuing a new certificate of need, Hudson said. The hospital already has borrowed the additional money, Hudson said.

In other business, hospital officials are hoping a new pilot program reduces the number of patients who are injured while they recover.

CAMC has hired five additional staff members to help patients get moving while they recover from heart attacks, surgeries and all kinds of illnesses, Dr. Kathleen Mimnagh, clinical director of medicine and family practice at CAMC, said.

Patients who are bed bound for more than 48 hours start to lose significant muscle strength, which can lead to falls and injuries, Mimnagh said. The goal of the program is to get the patients moving and prevent the loss of muscle strength, she said.

The program also has included the hospital's purchase of 30 new chairs for patients on the third floor of CAMC Memorial Hospital.

"We spent a lot of time [looking for] chairs for patients with good support that they wouldn't fall out of," Mimnagh said.

The hospital settled on six Empath chairs for $3,200 apiece. The chairs have four wheels and can be used for transporting patients. It also purchased 24 other chairs for $1,100 each. The less-expensive chairs have a 350-pound weight limit, she said.

The hospital started using the chairs and the mobility technicians in September, Mimnagh said. Since then, none of the patients has suffered bone fractures from falling, she said.

All of the chairs have material that can be easily cleaned, she said.

"We think this is a worthwhile investment in a good-quality chair that will last for years, because we're here to stay," Mimnagh said.

She said she thinks the program also will help reduce the number of patient re-admissions to the hospital. More chairs and mobility technicians will be added later throughout the hospital, she said.

The hospital board also agreed to borrow $20 million for unspecified future projects, Hudson said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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