It was business as usual for staffers at the newly formed Big Horn Basin Cancer Center this summer.
While the name and ownership changed – the office in the basement of the Bill and Joanne Price cancer treatment building continues to provide the same treatment services while also looking at ways to expand.
With the announcement that Frontier Oncology Cody would close its clinic June 1, West Park Hospital and St. Vincent Healthcare entered a joint venture to take over the office and continue providing infusion and chemotherapy treatment.
“Our biggest priority was to continue providing excellent care locally,” WPH Outpatient Supervisor Jennifer Ball, RN said. “We also wanted to avoid any disruption in the patient’s cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and infusion services.”
This priority became a reality when the cancer center was able to resume all services as usual June 4, with patients seeing no disruption in their treatment, Ball added.
“I’m encouraged and strengthened ... that they are continuing the excellent care I have received weekly for most of the last 15 years,” patient Joan Quick said. “I made the Billings trip at first and it’s such a comfort knowing I can still receive quality care so close to home.”
Patient Donna Payne agreed.
“At my age and health, I’m so glad I didn’t have to go to Billings for treatment,” she said. “Many things are available in Billings and that’s fine, but when you have other health problems too, it’s just so nice to have this close to home.”
“Nothing has changed in the way we take care of patients,” said physician’s assistant John Vipperman, who works full time at the cancer center on care and symptom management. “It’s really been a flawless transition.”
While WPH has offered chemotherapy/infusion and radiation services to patients for years, Stacia Jenson, RN, St. Vincent’s Clinic Manager and Lillie Ennist, RN, WPH Surgical Services Director, said they both saw a need to ensure the care Frontier provided to the community continued.
And part of that care was simply continuing to be there for the patients.
“Those nurses – they don’t just spend all your time chatting about what’s going on in your body – they care,” Payne said. “I’ve even had calls to check up on me at home.”
“Other than the effect chemotherapy has on you, my experience at the cancer center has been great,” said Roger Harrison, 67. “The staff tries hard to make sure you are comfortable.
“I’d say if you have to get chemotherapy, it sure seems like the place to do it.”
“Cancer really hits home with people in the community,” Jenson said. “Everyone knows someone with cancer and many of the patients we see are our friends, former teachers and neighbors.”
“Patients are already going through the major challenge of cancer and we are so happy we have been able to come together and provide stability to these patients.” Ball said.
Along with continuing infusion services, the Big Horn Basin Cancer Center has expanded its care.
Radiation oncology now is provided in the same building under full-time radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Gilroy, who was hired in April.
Recruitment for a full-time medical oncologist continues and work is almost completed on the in-house pharmacy.
Having these services in the same building allows for the collaboration of cancer treatment between doctors, physician assistants, pharmacists and nurses to continually improve patient care.
“We want to tell people, ‘If you live in the Big Horn Basin and have been diagnosed with cancer, you can begin here and have the comfort of knowing you can stay here for your cancer treatment needs.’” Jenson said.
Infusion, pharmacy among services
Services at the Big Horn Basin Cancer Center in the West Park Hospital complex include:
•Eight-chair infusion and chemotherapy service.
•In-house pharmacy with pharmacist on site.
•Radiation and a full-time radiation oncologist.
•Twice-weekly visiting medical oncologist.
•Full-time physician’s assistant to manage treatment.
•Certified nursing staff.
For more information, call 578-2800 (medical oncology) or 587-2955 (radiation).
(Heidi Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Infusion service also is available at Billings Clinic Cody where they also are recruiting for a full-time medical oncologist.)