One and one-half to two new patients each day are diagnosed with cancer at Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints Hospital. And now All Saints has a bigger, better place to treat them: This week the hospital is unveiling its newly expanded and upgraded, $19 million Cancer Center at All Saints.
All Saints showed off the new center Thursday evening during a private reception. It will be followed by a public open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and the first patients will be treated there Sept. 19.
The new center, under construction since last October, approximately doubles the old center’s size with 15,000 square feet of new space on two floors instead of one. It adds new capabilities and is designed with patient comfort in mind.
The center was designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects of Milwaukee, built by Riley Construction of Kenosha, and employed more than 120 tradesmen.
Everything in the new center — built with the help of $1.6 million from the All Saints Foundation — is more spacious, from the gown changing rooms to chemotherapy treatment areas.
“The previous Cancer Center was all on the lower level. It was very tight, very cramped,” commented Aaron Collins, All Saints director of plant operations and maintenance, during a tour Thursday. “So this is really a huge improvement.”
About mid-October, it will have an entrance directly from the covered parking structure, and valet parking will also be available, Collins said.
Just off the main lobby is the Quiet/Meditation Room, dominated by a 6-by-12-foot mural of a peaceful wooded scene. “It’s a new space that was created for families to just be,” Collins said. “The old Cancer Center didn’t have much room for those types of spaces.”
That mural is one of several large photo murals in the Cancer Center, all of them showing peaceful outdoor scenes. The most impressive of them, on the second floor, is a 10-by-23-foot, 3-D photograph of a dock on a serene blue lake and a forested hillside framing the lake.
“The staff was very involved in the design and in picking these specific pictures, and they definitely wanted to see a theme of: These are definitely places you could find yourself in Wisconsin,” Collins said.
The center includes a linear accelerator for radiation treatment, the best available now, that went into use in July. It can compensate for one’s breathing and apply the radiation between breaths — after the patient is analyzed in a CT simulator. And by December, staff will be using the linear accelerator for more precise and intense procedures, said Melissa Kacmarsky, manager of radiation oncology.
The entire Cancer Center is now lit by dimmable LED lights, Collins said, so patients and their families can put light levels at their own comfort levels.
Because the new center eliminated the Garden of Hope, something cancer patients could look out upon, All Saints added a rooftop terrace that can also be seen from the infusion rooms (where patients either get chemotherapy or treatments such as antibiotics after severe infections). There is also an outdoor water feature with flowing water, in the shape of the cancer awareness ribbon.
The new center adds areas for community education. Previously the center had to book a room in the hospital and people had to go there, Collins said. Among the new education areas is a large one that can seat close to 40 people, with video conferencing technology.
The flat-screen monitors include a 42-inch one on the back wall so the presenter can see what the audience is seeing, Collins explained. Both the large conference room and all the exam rooms include white boards because, “Physicians love to draw” to help educate, Collins said.
Finally, one thing the center’s staff will appreciate is the liberal number of bathrooms compared with before, Kacmarsky said. Before, the entire staff of perhaps 35 people on any given day shared one for both genders, she said. Now they will share a half-dozen.