Construction begins on NHRMC cancer treatment center expansion

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

An architectural rendering of NHRMC's expanded Zimmer Cancer Center. Work to nearly double space at the existing site is expected to be complete in fall 2017. Courtesy image.
An architectural rendering of NHRMC’s expanded Zimmer Cancer Center. Work to nearly double space at the existing site is expected to be complete in fall 2017. Courtesy image.

Enhanced care in an emotionally nurturing environment is at the heart of a planned expansion of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s onsite cancer treatment services.

Work is now underway to nearly double the space for surgical, radiation and gynecologic oncology – as well as offerings like the lung program – at the hospital’s Zimmer center, according to spokeswoman Claire Parker. The $14.5 million renovation project will also add support services and resources for patients and their loved ones.

Zimmer, which originally opened in 2000, remains the only center of its kind in southeastern North Carolina, said Henry Hawthorne, NHRMC’s administrator of oncology services. It also houses the hospital’s cancer clinical trials program – allowing local residents a chance to participate in national treatment studies. Zimmer is also recognized as a cancer teaching program by the American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer, a recognition awarded to only 25 percent of hospitals in the country.

Clinical trials will continue at the upgraded center, Hawthorne said, and the added square footage will make room for Cape Fear Cancer Specialists – NHRMC Physician Group to move into Zimmer.

“This central location offers our patients many benefits, as these highly skilled physicians can collaborate easier with the clinical team already located in…Zimmer,” Hawthorne noted.

Parker said the center’s infusion stations – outpatient space for cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy – will more than triple, from 15 to 48, and will be “tailored to suit patients’ preferences for privacy or socialization.”

“Every patient reacts to cancer treatment in [his or her] own ways, so we designed the infusion space to accommodate each individual’s preferences,” Hawthorne added. “Some allow for privacy if a patient seeks solace, and others have space for loved ones if that is what matters most to patients during treatment.”

An Information and Inspiration Center will provide the educational resources and support to create a sense of “belonging,” Parker said, guiding patients through NHRMC’s various ancillary services and helping connect them with the hospital’s community partners.

That kind of all-encompassing approach, Hawthorne said, is crucial to cancer patients, who experience a variety of physical and emotional impacts during treatment.

“Cancer is a disease patients face in different ways, and this renovation project focuses on what matters most to them. The…expansion will allow physicians, nurses and staff to work closely together in a team approach to improve outcomes and provide patients with expedited care,” he said.

If Hawthorne believes the project has patients’ wishes in mind, it’s with good reason. As part of the planning process, NHRMC relied heavily on input from those in Zimmer’s care.

“Our patients are at the forefront of everything we do as a medical center,” he said. “Their input and feedback is extremely important and our focus as an organization is to provide the highest level of patient-centered care in the most efficient way possible. What matters to our patients is paramount.”

Construction is set to wrap up by fall of 2017 but Parker said Zimmer will remain open and fully operational during the renovation. A new entrance, registration area and lobby has been set up near Zimmer’s previous main entrance.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.