Saint Luke’s East heightens profile in cancer care

Saint Luke’s East Hospital is opening expanded facilities for cancer treatment, designed to make patients more comfortable and give them convenient access to the most advanced care.

On Monday, the hospital in Lee’s Summit started treating patients with new equipment for medical oncology and infusion therapy.

“We’re excited to offer comprehensive cancer services in Lee’s Summit,” said Chief Executive Officer Ron Baker. He said there is a real need for eastern Jackson County and the region to have facilities located nearer to them. Previously, patients had to go for some services to Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute in Kansas City.

The expansion includes state-of-the art machinery for radiation therapy and an Image Renewal Center – where cancer patients can get wigs, compression garments, makeup and creams or other items designed specifically for their needs. It is near the infusion center and is the only shop of its kind in Jackson County, Baker said.

On the fifth floor, it overlooks a vista toward Kansas City with lots of natural light from windows.

“We wanted to make it as patient-friendly and comfortable as possible,” Baker said.

The Boo Ball fundraiser recently netted more than $200,000 to help with a fund for patients who need financial assistance to buy items at the appearance center and for furnishing the infusion center, Baker said.

The additions are in the hospital’s North Medical Pavilion. Cancer patients will have direct access from their own entrance with valet parking.

Timothy Pluard, a doctor and medical director for Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute, said a patient getting chemotherapy could spend an hour to eight hours in the infusion center while they’re given drugs intravenously, so it’s important to make it comfy.

Preparing the first floor suite for radiation therapy required building an unusual bunker, like a bomb shelter, to protect patients and staff from exposure. Building the three-foot-thick walls took 60 truckloads of concrete, Baker said.

One vault is vacant, for expansion. The other contains a linear accelerator.

Pluard said it is linked to advanced imaging equipment that allows delivering a more precise blast of higher-dose radiation to destroy tumors.

Construction of the North Medical Pavilion began in February 2010, adding 91,000 square feet to the campus. The hospital opened a 12-bed neonatal intensive care unit there in December 2011 and a 16-bed intensive care unit in March.

The hospital is on track to complete its fifth-floor addition, adding 30 beds next June or July and later another 30 beds. That will bring the hospital’s bed capacity to more than 200, Baker said.