ELLSWORTH, Maine — Jeff Dow knows what it’s like to have to transport a relative from Hancock or Washington County to Greater Bangor for cancer treatment.
Dow, 58, of Ellsworth took his mother Mary Dow to Eastern Maine Medical Center for treatment in the early 1990s because services were not available at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in the town where she worked as a nurse.
“We had to run her back and forth to Bangor and she’d be sick on the way home,” Dow said Sunday at the dedication of the new cancer wing named for his mother at the Ellsworth hospital. “If she could have quickly gone home to her own bed, it would have made her so much more comfortable.”
Mary Dow died of breast cancer on April 29, 1993, at the age 67. The original Mary Dow Center was founded four years after her death. On Sunday, the $2.1 million expansion of that center and the construction of a $1.3 million new hospital entrance were celebrated.
“About $800,000 of the $3.4 million total came from the community and we’re very grateful,” Charlie Therrien, chief operating officer for the hospital, said.
The remainder of the cost was funded by the hospital, according to Jane Sanderson, manager of marketing and public relations.
The new covered entrance includes valet parking and allows patients and visitors to get out of their vehicles “under cover,” Therrien said.
The center expanded from 1,500 to 6,500 square feet, he said at an open house held Sunday afternoon. It now has 12 infusion bays designed for privacy and comfort, a dedicated pharmacy, new equipment and furniture and an alcove where families may gather.
The center is affiliated with CancerCare of Maine, a division of Eastern Maine Health Care, located in Brewer, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Dr. Philip Brooks, an oncologist who works for the Ellsworth Hospital and CancerCare, said.
“We now have a world-class facility with a wonderful staff,” he said. “This gives us the ability to bring quality care close to home.”
The need for cancer care is growing as the people living in the geographic area the hospital serves age, Brooks said. The center also offers infusion therapy for osteoporosis, anemia, multiple sclerosis, immune deficiencies and neurological diseases.
Last year, there were 4,457 patient visits at the Mary Dow Center, the doctor said.
Planning for the expansion began nearly three years ago, Rebecca Sargent, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said. Ground was broken Nov. 9, 2011, and construction was completed about 13 months later. The center opened to patients Dec. 17.
Carole Dane, 75, of Hancock was one of more than 125 people who attended Sunday’s open house. She must go to Brewer to receive treatments due to allergies but has her port flushed every four weeks at the Mary Dow Center in Ellsworth.
“The new chairs are just wonderful,” Danes said of the heated, swiveling recliners with myriad settings. “The old chairs were too tall. It was hard for me to get out of them and the old space was very crowded. But the staff here are magnificent and that’s what really matters.”
Dow said that his mother would agree with Jane about what makes the facility special.
“I’m proud to have this facility named after my mom,” he said. “It does keep her legacy alive but what would mean the most to her is the high quality of care provided here for the community.”