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Hospital celebrates new approach to cancer treatment Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Jul 14 2012 12:00 PM

A new cancer treatment facility in Chula Vista has added a new twist on comprehensive healthcare.

The Douglas and Nancy Barnhart cancer facility at Sharp Healthcare on Medical Center Drive focuses on providing a healing environment while using advanced medical technology.

It’s the only South County facility that provides TrueBeam radiotherapy, an advanced treatment that destroys cancer and preserves healthy and critical organs more accurately.

The $36 million, 45,000-square-foot facility was built as a refuge for patients going through difficult physical and emotional treatments.

Prior to building the facility, an informal patient survey was taken in an effort to empower patients based on what they want and need.

“One of the things the patients said was that they want to have more control of their disease,” Sharp radiation oncology manager Lorna McGrory said.

In addition, prominent builder Douglas Barnhart, who is a philanthropist along with his wife, became inspired to create the facility when Douglas was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer four years ago.

Upon entering the building, patients and family members are greeted with 100 hand-painted aluminum doves hanging from the center’s atrium meant to lift their spirits. The center also offers a fireplace, soothing colors and ample natural light.

Returning patients are provided a private entrance and personal parking access, which gives them a sense of privacy.

The typical sitting area for patients and families is transformed into a place where patients can relax, enjoy refreshments and make themselves at home.

“The purpose of the building is to diminish the anxiety of patients and family members,” McGrory said.

Rooms also keep the theme alive with 41 pieces of local wildlife artwork throughout the facility that make exam rooms feel more like home.

“We tried to make it less intrusive by taking out as much medical stuff as possible,” McGrory said. “There’s a patient flow to everything.”

The facility also offers several support groups, which can include pet therapy.

Pets are trained by their owners then come to the facility and  and train together.

Currently, the facility has one working dog, one dog in training and a bunny.

“The patients respond amazingly to them,” McGrory said.

Professional patient navigators help lead patients along their journey in an effort to lessen the stress of small things, while they focus on getting better.

Patients can entertain themselves in the healing arts room or check out the center’s boutique, which offers hats, prosthetics and other accessories created by a former cancer patient and current staff member.

McGrory also said that instead of having walls look like bank vaults, floor to ceiling windows with garden views put patients at ease while they can connect their iPod to the machine during radiation treatments.

The facility also offers Stereotactic body radiation therapy, used to precisely target radiation to a tumor and ensure the same area is treated each time.

“It’s the answer to a surgical procedure,” McGrory said. “It can treat areas that are as small as two millimeters.”

The facility also has an infusion center where patients can receive chemotherapy, blood, antibiotics or other infusions.

Patient chairs are heated with massage capability.

“Patients can go out to the terrace while they’re hooked up (intravenously), which provides them with more comfortability,” McGrory said.

Glennel Rutkoff, who has worked at Sharp’s infusion center for seven years, said the entire process promotes patient satisfaction.

“This is such a step in what Sharp Healthcare wants to be to provide care above and beyond in meeting patients’ expectations and the need of the community,” Rutkoff said.

Funding for the center came from a $15.5 million commitment from Sharp Healthcare, with its foundation raising $3.4 million in philanthropic support. The Barnharts donated $1 million to the facility.

The facility begins accepting patients this month.

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