And the new facility will only add to services pre-existing at Hallmark’s CHEM Center for Radiation Oncology, which was one of the first freestanding radiation oncology sites in the Commonwealth. It’s just across the street from the new facility at 41 Montvale Ave.
Candio added the CHEM center already had a strong presence in the community and described the new cancer center as the natural next step for Hallmark to take.
Candio said the new center’s location is key and that the driving force behind situating it in Stoneham was to make it a destination point for patients. She said it’s easy to navigate and serves as a one-stop for a comprehensive range of cancer services than a hospital or trekking into Boston.
Tricia Renaudie, RN, who led tours of the infusion section of the new facility last week, said when cancer patients are first diagnosed they often start treatment in one of the Boston hospitals but continue at Hallmark. She said many find treatment in the larger Boston hospitals to be impersonal while Hallmark’s care is more individualized.
“We say you don’t have to go to Boston,” Renaudie added.
Robert Cummings, chairman of the Hallmark Health Board of Directors, said the network established the new cancer care center to meet community need and respond to the state Department of Public Health’s request to provide dedicated centers to combat cancer in the Commonwealth. He said the new facility represents Hallmark’s commitment to improve the quality and depth of cancer care.
“The need is there,” continued Michael Sack, president and CEO of Hallmark Health.
Sack also referred to the necessity for a cancer center north of Boston where experts are linked together and patients easily have access to state-of-the art treatment that’s provided with compassion.
Renaudie said the new facility includes 16 reclining infusion chairs, each with their own TVs – a “distraction” for patients from their treatment, room for a patients’ family members or friends, a conference room equipped for medical videoconferencing, physicians’ offices and examination rooms.
Renaudie said patients in the infusion area say it is more comfortable than they expected, which is important as treatments can last up to six or seven hours. She said the medication system is computerized and all chemotherapy, which she described as “cutting edge,” is mixed on site.
The staff helped design the facility, according to Cummings.
This past November, Hallmark Health’s Cancer Care Program received a three-year approval, with commendation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.
“We are at the beginning,” said Dr. Barbara Bjornson, medical director of the new Hematology and Oncology Center. “Each patient is a new beginning.”
Bjornson added Hallmark’s sole reason for being is to serve patients and other people who walk through our door.
The new part of the center, which occupies 12,000 square feet on the top two and a half floors of the building at 41 Montvale Ave., opened in September.
Besides the cancer and CHEM centers in Stoneham and Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford, the Hallmark Health network also includes Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Lawrence Memorial / Regis College Nursing and Radiography programs, Ell Pond Medical Associates and the Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice.