State regulators near decision on Wallingford cancer center

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The state Office of Health Strategies is weighing a two-year-old application from Hartford Healthcare and Yale New Haven Health Services to operate a proton cancer therapy treatment center in Wallingford. 

Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health Services, doing business as the Connecticut Proton Therapy Center LLC, filed a certificate of need with the state in December 2019 to bring proton therapy equipment and open the center on Northrop Road near Route 68.

The joint venture would not only bring one of the newest cancer treatment facilities to the region, it will also provide thousands of dollars in tax revenue and ancillary benefits to Wallingford, said town officials. 

Wallingford politicians support OHS approval. Both state Rep. Craig Fishbein and Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. have written letters to OHS in support of the application. A final ruling from from the state office is expected any day.

“The precision that doctors are able to achieve with proton beam therapy is astounding and locating a cutting-edge facility in Wallingford will allow patients from throughout the state convenient access to life-saving technology,” Fishbein said in a statement Monday. “Approval of this facility is critically important to the delivery of state-of-the-art, accessible treatments that have been proven effective while reducing the exposure to surrounding tissues, which is extremely important when treating breast, lung, spine and other tumors.”

Connecticut residents currently seeking this treatment are forced to leave the state, and there are only a few options in the Northeast, Fishbein added.

The technology is designed to treat cancers of the brain, central nervous system, neck, liver, eye, spine, breast, lung, prostate and more. 

Networks partner

The partnership between the two health care networks may seem surprising, but it’s part of a trend in sharing resources to make health care more accessible to the community.

“HHC and YNHHS entered into a strategic partnership to advance cancer treatment options by bringing this new technology to the State ,” according to the Connecticut Proton Therapy Center application to the Office of Health Strategy. “Together, the two health systems established CPTC to create a consortium approach to assure this clinically relevant technology is made available to the citizens of Connecticut in the most cost-effective manner. This proposal is consistent with each of HHC’s and YNHHS’ history of clinical innovation and commitment to providing the most advanced life-saving treatment options available.”

The establishment of a proton therapy center in Connecticut will enhance oncology services, offering residents the most cutting-edge treatment option for certain types of cancers including, notably, pediatric cancers, according to the application. 

On Oct. 29, the OHS reported the public hearing and public record were closed and the department would issue a ruling. 

Hartford HealthCare representatives said they could not comment on pending state decisions. 

In addition to pursuing the proton partnership, both Yale New Haven Health Systems and Hartford HealthCare have been busy pursuing expansion opportunities outside of their traditional service areas. Hartford HealthCare’s acquisition of St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport several years ago has provided the network opportunities to open treatment centers and offices in Fairfield County while Yale has its sights on central Connecticut.

Yale announced a partnership with Masonicare to open an orthopedic and neurology center for residents and the general public on the campus. 

“This is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time and something we want to continue to promote,” said Dr. Keith Churchwell president, Yale New Haven Hospital. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of time, being a force for good along the I-95 corridor and recognized we don’t have the same type of imprint or resources in central Connecticut that we put along the shoreline.”  

Yale asked how do they develop pathways for follow up care, once a patient has had a procedure in New Haven. 

“How do we become a resource for those patients, in the right setting?” Churchwell said. “How do we have a larger opportunity to deliver healthcare?”

Expansion provides Yale patients with added choices in terms of the quality and overall types of care they are receiving and expertise.

“Patients and families will let us know what they need and what is not being provided,” Churchwell said. “As a system, we can pivot in a way that makes sense from a medical standpoint, financial and clinical. The state has three very large health systems running sometimes within a half mile apart from each other. It will figure itself out.”

With the Masonicare partnership, “someone came up with a good idea,” Churchwell said. The campus has more than 2,000 residents and among their biggest concerns is orthopedic issues that become more prominent as they age. The question became how to support treatment more effectively. 

The partnership with Masonicare is the first for Yale and opens up the possibility for more Yale services, including cardiovascular treatments and other therapies, Churchwell said.  

Greater choice

Yale also stepped into Hartford HealthCare’s backyard when it agreed to lease the 180,000-square-foot former Macy’s department store at the Meriden Mall. The site is directly across from MidState Medical Center in Meriden, owned by Hartford HealthCare. 

The site will host a variety of Yale services, treatment centers and physician offices. The health care facility will be Yale’s northernmost location. 

The expansion provides more to patients than convenience, health care administers said. With more patients taking responsibility for their care and cost, more choices and better access to second opinions are a plus for consumers. 

Hartford HealthCare said it is pioneering a different kind of model that offers more access at a more affordable cost, representatives said.

“With hundreds of health centers that span the state in all eight of its counties, Hartford HealthCare is building more access and encouraging care close to home in  more affordable settings,” stated David Whitehead, chieff strategy officer in an email. “This is happening now within urgent care centers; through virtual visits; with more surgical procedures being performed safely outside the hospital in less-costly ambulatory settings.  We are proud to have launched a new Mobile Health Initiative that beings care to the communities that need it the most.”

Brooke Spadaccino, Yale’s director of orthopedic and spine services, said the network expects to draw patients from surrounding towns, including Cheshire, Southington, Wallingford and North Haven. 

Spadaccino explained that Yale’s strategy to renovate and occupy existing spaces allows it to begin operations quicker than if it built new multi-million facilities.

“I do anticipate a draw from other towns,” Spadaccino said. 

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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