Metro-East News

St. Elizabeth’s will join with physicians group to open a full-service cancer center

The evolution of cancer treatment in the metro-east

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Take a look at the evolution of cancer treatment in the metro-east.

It’s been a year since St. Elizabeth’s Hospital sold its half of the Cancer Treatment Center in Swansea to the Memorial Hospital network. Now St. E.’s is moving forward with plans to open its own radiation oncology clinic in O’Fallon.

The clinic will share a new building with Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois, a medical oncology physicians group. This will allow cancer patients to get radiation, chemotherapy and imaging services all in one place.

“We estimate that almost half of the patients in our area receive cancer treatment across the river,” said St. Elizabeth’s President and CEO Patti Fischer. “And especially with cancer patients, they can get debilitated and very sick. It’s so much better to receive treatment closer to home.”

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board recently approved plans for the new radiation oncology clinic, which hasn’t yet been named. The target opening date is January 2020.

That is around the same time Memorial Network expects to open a new medical office building on its Memorial Hospital East campus in Shiloh that will house an Illinois branch of Siteman Cancer Center.

St. Elizabeth’s will lease nearly 12,000 square feet in a new 30,000-square-foot building at 301 Regency Park Drive, just west of the hospital, for the radiation oncology clinic. The building will be constructed and owned by Green Mount Enterprises, a development company formed by Cancer Care Specialists.

Patti Fisher
Patti Fischer, president and CEO of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, and other officials hope to open their new radiation oncology clinic in January of 2020. Speckhard Photography

“It will encompass all the technologies and services a cancer patient needs,” said Dr. Mark Walshauser, a medical oncologist with Cancer Care Specialists, president of Green Mount Enterprises and a member of the hospital’s Cancer Committee.

Mark Walshauser
Dr. Mark Walshauser is a medical oncologist with Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois, president of Green Mount Enterprises and a member of the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Cancer Committee. Provided

The clinic will have a linear accelerator and CT simulator and offer intensity modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiotherapy. The medical oncology practice space will contain a large chemotherapy infusion suite.

Other services at the St. Elizabeth’s clinic will include genetic counseling, cancer screenings, wellness programs, cancer prevention education and clinical trials through the National Cancer Institute, University of Chicago and National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project.

“To have it all in one place will be a godsend,” said Mary Ellen Akridge, 70, of Troy, a retired schoolteacher whose husband, Don, has been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer for four years.

Don Akridge, 70, a retired machinist foreman, had 188 doctor’s appointments at multiple locations last year, which proved exhausting for the couple. Dr. Walshauser is his medical oncologist.

O'Fallon artist rendering
This artist’s rendering shows what a new 30,000-square-foot cancer treatment center in O’Fallon will look like. It will house a St. Elizabeth’s Hospital radiation oncology clinic and a private medical oncology practice. Green Mount Enterprises

Cancer Care Specialists was founded in Decatur in 1984. It now has locations in Effingham, Centralia and Swansea. The Swansea office will close when the new building in O’Fallon opens.

St. Elizabeth’s will invest more than $17 million in the radiation oncology clinic, according to its Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board application.

“The applicants considered owning and developing a medical office building themselves but rejected this alternative because the added cost would increase financial risk, the applicants did not desire to be a landlord of the building and did not want to be responsible for the space it was not occupying,” the application states.

Fischer estimates that the hospital and physicians group will employ 25 to 30 people at the new cancer center, in addition to doctors.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital
Hospital Sisters Health System opened the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon in November of 2017. Now the hospital is planning for a radiation oncology clinic nearby. Steve Nagy

St. Elizabeth’s moved out of Belleville and opened its new O’Fallon hospital in November of 2017.

A month later, St. Elizabeth’s sold its half of the Cancer Treatment Center, a radiation oncology clinic in Swansea, to Memorial Network. By that time, the latter already had opened Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh.

Memorial Network began turning the Cancer Treatment Center into a branch of Siteman Cancer Center, which is affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine. Its physicians group brought in a medical oncology practice called Illinois Oncology before the official change took place in August.

Demolition on the former St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville continues. Crews recently removed the raised walkway over West Lincoln Street and currently they are removing the emergency room entrance.

Teri Maddox has been a reporter for 35 years, joining the Belleville News-Democrat in 1990. She also teaches journalism at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and University of Wisconsin-Madison.