It already handles about 90,000 patient visits each year, with demand only expected to grow. Thus, Columbus Regional Health is moving forward with a major expansion of the John B. Amos Cancer Center.
The Columbus hospital and healthcare system is preparing to break ground on a 46,411-square-foot project which will nearly double the size of the existing 49,620-square-foot cancer center that opened in late 2004. The new facilities should be completed by late 2018.
“Truly, this is about being here for the community and ensuring that Columbus, Ga., and this region continues to have the highest level of cancer services available. It’s that commitment we’re moving forward with,” Bill Tustin, Columbus Regional Health’s vice president, oncology services, said Tuesday.
The construction pricetag alone for the addition to the John B. Amos Cancer Center at 1831 5th Ave. is nearly $15.8 million, with Batson-Cook Company the general contractor. The original project launched in 2002 and completed in 2004 cost about $20 million, including the high-tech equipment and office materials needed to outfit the facility.
The cancer center, which started inside The Medical Center before moving to its existing location in late 2004, is named after the former Aflac insurance firm co-founder John B. Amos, who died of cancer in 1990.
The current three-story, free-standing center is home to Columbus Regional Health’s oncology services department, physician offices and patient and family support areas. The facility includes advanced diagnostic and treatment services.
Though Tustin said final plans for the John B. Amos Cancer Center still are being firmed up, site preparation work is getting underway on the property that once was home to Hamilton House, a 43,000-square-foot nursing home facility adjacent to the center which Columbus Regional had owned and operated since 1990. It razed that structure last year.
“At this time, what we’re thinking about is this (new) building is going to come right off the existing building,” the oncology executive said. “We’re talking about expansion of clinical core services, existing services, and also some space for anticipated growth.”
John B. Amos Cancer Center has about 90,000 patient visits annually. On any given day, there are 450 patients being treated in some way or another at the facility. It has a staff of about 100, which is likely to grow, Tustin said, although he did not have a number of how high employment there might increase.
“I wouldn’t say we’re at capacity,” he said. “This is definitely proactive. We hired three new physicians over the past 12 months. In this business, you’ve kind of got to be in front of things, because once you fill it up, it’s too late for that. That’s our mindset.”
Though he doesn’t know how fast demand might grow for the cancer center, Tustin said there’s no doubt it will happen due to an aging population that includes the wave of Baby Boomers now entering the autumn of their lives.
“The first Baby Boomer turned 65 in 2011, and we expect cancer incidents to increase over the next 20 to 25 years based on that aging population,” he said. “It’s a fact that you have higher cancer incident risks the older you get. So this is really about anticipating those needs and continuing the same level of service that we’ve always provided.”
There’s also the fact that more people who do receive a cancer diagnosis are being treated successfully and living longer because of it, he said. That means follow-up care is required, and additional services and programs connected to that group of people also will be needed.
The John B. Amos Cancer Center’s primary market is Muscogee County and its residents, with outlying counties part of its service area as well. There also are patients from elsewhere, some from major cities such as Montgomery, Ala., Birmingham, Ala., and Macon, Ga., who travel to Columbus for treatment. That’s something Columbus Regional Health wants to avoid for local residents, Tustin said.
“Our community deserves it,” he said. “You should not have to go anywhere or drive anywhere or go to Atlanta. We feel and are committed to providing those services locally. Our patients and their families, they deserve it.”