Patient input used to design cancer facility

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 19, 2009, at 10:05 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — By the end of the year, cancer patients from throughout Eastern Maine Medical Center’s nine-county service area will undergo testing and treatment in a modern $42 million facility designed with them in mind.

That’s because area cancer patients were consulted as part of the planning process for CancerCare of Maine’s nearly completed new home, according to Brad Coffey, director of Champion the Cure, a two-year $9.5 million fundraising campaign now in its final phase.

As of Wednesday, $1.8 million remained to be raised.

“It’s going to be very cozy, inviting, noninstitutional,” Coffey said while leading a quick walk-through of the three-level facility expected to be completed in mid-December.

Besides the state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment equipment, labs and pharmacies one expects to find in a regional cancer center, the new facility will offer patients and their loved ones such services and amenities as an on-site pharmacy offering medications and prosthetics, valet parking and a cafe that’s open all day.

It also will have 35 private “infusion bays” for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment on the second level, while offering scenic views such as Copeland Hill. On the first level, radiation patients will undergo treatment, in three separate areas, each with its own changing and waiting area.

In addition, heated walkways will keep ice and snow at bay, and the parking layout has been designed so that patients will have to walk no farther than 180 feet to reach the center, Coffey said.

Cancer patients and their doctors now are housed in an outdated warren of cramped offices, windowless waiting rooms and exposed clinical areas at EMMC in Bangor. Patients in their johnnies sometimes are cramped cheek by jowl while undergoing treatment, Coffey noted.

The new center being built atop Whiting Hill in Brewer will more than double the amount of space CancerCare now has in Bangor, Coffey said, increasing available space from about 30,000 square feet to between 70,000 and 80,000 square feet.

“This is so, so needed,” Coffey said during Wednesday’s tour, which he led along with project manager Peter Wormell and project engineer Brian Pluff of Barr & Barr Builders, which has offices in Maine, Boston, New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey.

To soothe patients who are going through arguably some of the scariest times in their lives, the center’s architectural firm, SMRT Architecture Engineering Planning of Portland, has built in what Coffey called “positive distractions,” visual features that aim to make the medical setting less intimidating. These will include features such as the two-sided Maine-marble gas fireplace being made by Freshwater Stone of Orland and a wide, gently curved stairway in the main lobby, as well as lots of glass to let natural light stream in.

Coffey said that in some treatment areas, changing nature scenes will be projected overhead for patients to rest their eyes on while listening to piped-in music.

Another touch many might find comforting will be a series of gardens that can be seen from all three levels, he said.

The third floor, he said, eventually will house the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health, which now operates out of a temporary site on Sylvan Road in Bangor. The move, he said, aims to bring together under one roof the cancer patients and researchers who are seeking cures.

For information about the new center and the fundraising campaign, visit www.championthecure.org. Champion the Cure campaign also has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Champion-the-Cure/95316822014.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/08/19/news/bangor/patient-input-used-to-design-cancer-facility/ printed on July 11, 2014