When cancer patient Janice Hidde of New London needs chemotherapy, she doesn’t have to travel far.
short drive to New London Family Medical Center (NLFMC) is all it takes for her to receive the medications that help her fight the disease.
While she appreciates the convenience of NLFMC’s chemotherapy infusion room, she admits its limited square footage leaves a bit to be desired.
“There can be people waiting in the waiting room to get into a chair, or they can have pumps set up in the hallway to get people going (on treatments),” Hidde said.
Indeed, on one recent Monday, a record 17 patients received hours-long treatments in the facility. It barely accommodates six to eight patients, plus the two nurses who care for them from an inconvenient workstation in an adjacent room.
“They are running back and forth constantly,” Hidde said.
It’s all in the name of providing the best possible care, said oncology nurse Amy Hein. “We’re not going to turn our patients away. We’ll either start early or stay late or whatever we need to do so they don’t have to go to one of the hospitals in Appleton.”
Answering a need
Fortunately, NLFMC will soon enjoy a new chemotherapy infusion suite courtesy of the community through the Wolf River Area Healthcare Foundation (WRAHF). The local nonprofit organization, which facilitates philanthropy in support of NLFMC, is in the midst of a $250,000 campaign to expand the facility to nearly three times its current size.
“It will be the same care, the same treatment, but it’ll make it safer and easier for the patient,” said oncologist Avi Bar-Lev, MD, who sees patients at NLFMC through Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology.
Under plans conditionally approved by the state, the chemotherapy suite will relocate to the newly expanded specialty physicians’ clinic, with a scenic view of Mosquito Hill. Amenities will include fully reclining chairs, individual TVs, privacy curtains, a central, easily accessible nurses’ station and – perhaps most important of all – space for loved ones to sit with patients while they receive treatment.
“Now we have to chase family out a lot of time, unfortunately,” said oncology nurse Patti Radix. “They’re very understanding, but if it were me, I’d like someone there.”
A swell of support
Thus far, donations to the cause total more than $130,000, including $68,000 netted at the Foundation’s annual dinner in September and $65,000 in other early commitments to the cause.
“It’s remarkable how quickly the community has responded to this initiative,” said NLFMC president and CEO Bill Schmidt. “The Wolf River Area Healthcare Foundation has generated tremendous community support for critical hospital projects like the Family Birth Center and the new ambulance, and this campaign is no exception.”
Among those supporting the new chemotherapy suite are several local businesses. For example, Creative Cabinets has donated all needed custom cabinetry for the facility.
“We’re thrilled that so many people and organizations have come forward already with donations, and we’re hoping to involve hundreds more community members in the project,” said WRAHF executive director Deborah Johnson.
She’s referring to the WRAHF’s new 1,000 Friends appeal. The year-end drive invites community members to join the WRAHF’s circle of 1,000 Friends by giving a gift of $100 or more to help complete the chemotherapy facility and other vital hospital projects.
With such gifts shoring up the healthcare available close to home, community members will enjoy an improved quality of life, according to Dr. Bar-Lev.
“Some patients won’t travel if we can’t accommodate them here in New London. They won’t get the care they need,” he said. “This new chemo facility will really make a difference in the comfort and safety of our patients and the health of our communities.”