UH cancer center, hospitals team up
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
With construction of a new 150,000-square-foot home expected to begin this summer, the University of Hawai'i's Cancer Research Center has sealed a monumental partnership with three major hospital groups in a move that will boost cancer research and care for Hawai'i residents.
The formation of the new community hospital consortium was announced formally yesterday during a joint hearing of the state Senate and House higher education committees.
Besides sharing facilities, personnel, information and other resources, The Queen's Medical Center, Hawai'i Pacific Health and Kuakini Health System will provide $2.2 million annually toward center operations.
Queen's and Hawai'i Pacific Health are chipping in $1 million each annually while, Kuakini will provide $200,000 each year.
Perhaps most significantly, however, the partnership will mean the medical school will not have to build a clinic for patient care, a key requirement of being designated one of 65 National Cancer Institute centers. Existing clinics at the three groups will become part of the patient clinic program, reducing the price tag of construction for the new UH center from $200 million to $120 million.
The center is scheduled to open in 2013 across the lawn from the John A. Burns School of Medicine.
"The option for us to build our own hospital would not have been, in my opinion, a viable economic option given the size of the state of Hawai'i," said Dr. Michele Carbone, the center's director.
Art Ushijima, Queen's president and chief executive, said he and his counterparts at Hawai'i Pacific Health and Kuakini got together about a year ago and "acknowledged that it was important that we set aside our institutional interests and focus on the greater good of the community and the care of our cancer patients."
Ushijima said the goal is to be able to provide access to the best care for Hawai'i's cancer patients, regardless of where they live. "We would be sharing resources and avoid the duplication," he said.
Chuck Sted, Hawai'i Pacific Health president, said the partnership makes sense.
"We provide the clinical care, we're on one end of the spectrum," said Sted, whose company includes Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children, Straub Clinic and Hospital, Pali Momi Hospital and Wilcox Hospital. "There's bench research — test tubes and chemicals and scopes and tissue samples and things like that. We don't do that," Sted said. "And then there's translational research. Somebody has to take the bench research and help put it into practice in a clinical setting. We don't do that either."
Patients will benefit from having a center that will be able to tap into the expertise of all the partners that would be able to form a more accurate diagnosis and personalized plan of treatment, Sted said.
Jackie Young, chief staff officer for American Cancer Society Hawai'i Pacific, told The Advertiser that a state task force she was on in 2002 concluded that cancer treatment in Hawai'i was fragmented and that hospitals were not participating in clinical trials.
Young praised Carbone, who became the center's director in August, for bringing the parties together.
"Before, there were these silos in the sense that different hospitals did their own things," Young said. "It was very competitive and some of them did not wish the cancer center well. What Carbone has done is said, 'What will help us to work together?' Some of the silos have come down."
Young added: "To me, that's going to increase cancer care when you've got hospitals talking to each other, and the University of Hawai'i. That's a major step forward."
The American Cancer Society will work to help those on the Neighbor Islands be able to come to O'ahu for treatment by providing them lodging and other needs.
Officials from the American Cancer Society Hawai'i Pacific did not attend yesterday's meeting but submitted testimony supporting the cancer center and the partnership.
The institute also wants the center to attract more qualified physicians and researchers, and the new center will help accomplish that as well, Carbone said.
Carbone said Hawai'i's unique ethnic composition and geographic location mean certain types of cancer, including liver cancer, are more prevalent here. "This is the place to address those kinds of issues, we cannot expect others to do that," he said.
The new facility is expected to be paid for almost entirely from cigarette tax money collected by the state. There is about $34 million in the fund, and about $28 million has been set aside for planning and design. Some lawmakers tried unsuccessfully during last year's legislative session to raid the fund to help deal with the state's budget woes.