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A rendering of the new $30 million cancer center, right, being developed at Hillcrest. The architects are Cannon Design of Grand Island, N.Y.

Berkshire Health Systems Developing $30M Cancer Center

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Above, Dr. Trevor Bayliss with a model of the new cancer center to be developed on the Hillcrest campus. Dr. Michael DeLeo, of Berkshire Hematology/Oncology, said the center will provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment for cancer patients.
Phase 1: Renovation of the third floor of the patient tower at Hillcrest into a six-physician practice; 18 exam rooms; 10 office areas; conference and waiting areas; infusion and treatment area on the fourth floor; pharmacy.
Phase 2: New entrance; wellness center with library, classrooms, support, meditation and rehabilitation; clinical laboratory
Phase 3: Radiation and multidisciplinary clinic; radiation oncology practice space; exam and office rooms; radiation therapy services and advanced equipment.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Health Systems will offer comprehensive cancer care for Berkshire County with the construction of a $30 million cancer center on its Hillcrest campus and a merger with Berkshire Hematology/Oncology.

The significant investment in the city and in the county's medical care was announced on Wednesday night by President and CEO David Phelps to a gathering of state and local officials, doctors, health-care workers and community leaders at the Colonial Theatre.

The news was so "vastly significant," that Phelps said it was difficult to express the vision and the enthusiasm of those involved — so it was captured on video and shown to the audience. (See below)

"It's clear that our physicians believe this project will yield very significant benefits for patients, their families, our clinicians, our clinician teams, our psychiatrists, nurses and all of those who care for cancer patients," he said.

Berkshire County has some 700 new cancer cases a year, said Phelps, and the new center will allow comprehensive care from diagnosis, to treatment, to support. It will also provide support and stability for the BHO practice and be used to attract new oncologists to serve the region, including first recruit Dr. Trevor Bayliss.

BHO's Drs. Michael DeLeo, Harvey Zimbler and Paul Rosenthal will join Berkshire Medical Center's Physician Practice organization and all of their employees will move into the new center as it's constructed over the next two years.

The BMC Cancer Center will offer hematology/oncology, radiation treatment, surgery, consultation and support services for patients and their families. The state-of-the-art center will include a classrooms, conference areas, library, meditation room, exercise rehabilitation, various counseling services, on-site pharmacy, full clinical laboratory, infusion service, exam rooms, and a linear accelerator (beam radiation) tomotherapy and CT scanner.

The first phase of reconstructing the four-story patient tower currently at Hillcrest will begin in the next few weeks with occupation beginning sometime next March. The final phase, the installation of the radiation clinics and therapy services on the first floor, should be completed by the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. Hillcrest also houses a centers for pain, work wellness, tobacco treatment, family health and sleep disorders.

Talks with BHO began a year ago under the direction of Chief Financial Officer Darlene Rodowicz.

"I said to her, we only do these big projects every 30 years or so, so this important. Don't worry about the money," he joked. "Darlene took me literally."

DeLeo, speaking for BHO, said the year had been exciting and different. "I think it's going to be a signature event on the part of the health system and BHO and I think it's going to be something Berkshire County will look at with great respect over the years," he said.

The practice looked forward to the ability to treat patients in an integrated, multidisciplinary setting that would provide efficiency as well as very personal service to cancer patients. 

"As a private practice, we are hit at from all sides sometimes and it's very difficult to effectively respond to some of the challenges presented to us," said DeLeo. "I think working with BHO, we're going to be a much more dynamic, strong group to advocate for patients in Berkshire County, which is the ultimate goal."

Important to sustaining care is the ability to recruit physicians, a difficult task in this rural area and even more so in attracting oncologists.

"We think Trevor is the first of a lot of young physicians who are going to find our new cancer center and the comprehensive cancer program we offer here as an exciting alternative to consider when they are making their career decisions," said Phelps.

The lobby of the new center; below, Hillcrest Hospital today.
Bayliss, a Williamstown native who graduated from Williams College (and won his own battle with cancer), will join the practice in 2013 after completing his fellowship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire.

While he liked the idea of bringing his young family back to the Berkshires, the development of a new comprehensive cancer center was the attraction, he said, one that he thought would also interest other young doctors.

The addition of Bayliss will allow the services offered in Great Barrington and North Adams to expand again; Phelps hopes to add five or six more physicians.

"We expect at some point to affiliate with a tertiary center (specialized consultive care) so there would be little or no reason to leave the area," said Phelps, adding that patients often do better handling the emotional and physical toll of cancer treatment at home. "You should go get a second opinion, but for most cancers, they can be adequately cared for here."

Phelps said prudent financial oversight, and pressure from the board to save when the health system ran into fiscal problems two decades ago, has allowed it to build up cash reserves and given it flexibility on doing projects.

Besides, he said, rural communities shouldn't have to go without good medical care because of their location and it was the health-care system's obligation to provide it.

Mayor Daniel Bianchi said few families have been untouched by cancer and that he was moved by the physicians and others dedication to cancer patients and families.

"Many of us have come to the Colonial Theatre for performances but I don't think you are going to ever attend a more important performance than the one that we have here tonight," said Mayor Daniel Bianchi. "This is just an outstanding announcement, an outstanding project."

Tags: BHS,   BMC,   cancer,   cancer support,   hematology,   oncology,   

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