TH EXCLUSIVE: Health care providers join hands to launch new Integrated Cancer Center

Dr. Mark Hermann, a medical oncologist with Grand River Medical Group, shows the infusion bays at the new Integrated Cancer Center in Dubuque on Friday. The center is a collaboration between UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital’s Wendt Regional Cancer Center and Grand River Medical Group and is located on Finley’s campus. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

One of the first images that people arriving at the new Integrated Cancer Center in Dubuque will see is an abstract rendering of three figures, arms interlocked.

Not only did its designers intend to convey reassurance as patients confront a life-altering disease, but the logo also symbolizes the partnership between the center’s creators.

After two years of planning, the center will open on Monday, Sept. 28, bringing under one roof the oncology services of two Dubuque health care providers.

Grand River Medical Group’s medical oncology clinic has relocated to UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital’s Wendt Regional Cancer Center, 350 N. Grandview Ave.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. Monday, 49 patients will pass through its hallways.

“We’re ready to continue the good care we’ve been doing for years,” said Dr. Mark Hermann, a medical oncologist with Grand River. “It’s just nice that now we have a better, roomier, cleaner, more beautiful space that we can share.”

The partnership brings chemotherapy infusion to the Finley campus, where radiation oncology already is offered. Both services are frequently employed in cancer treatment, said Dr. Paul Lindholm, a radiation oncologist at the Wendt Center.

“It’s so much nicer when we’re down the hallway and we can talk to each other face-to-face rather than over the phone,” he said.

DESIGNING COMFORT

In anticipation of the move, a $2.2 million renovation kicked off in May.

“Most of the money that was spent on the renovation was really focused on the patient experience,” said Grand River CEO Justin Hafner.

The space has the adornments of modern health care design.

Mahogany-colored paneling lines a wall in the waiting room, across from a mini-fridge stocked with water. Doorways are inlaid with textured glass marked with a pattern of tree limbs.

“A lot of local artwork and imagery to put patients at ease,” said UnityPoint Health–Dubuque President and CEO Chad Wolbers. “Very much a healing environment was in mind when we reconfigured this space.”

The medical oncology wing also contains four exam rooms, a laboratory and new offices. Natural sunlight fills six infusion bays, where chemotherapy is administered.

Eighteen staff will work in the new center, but they maintain their employment either through Finley or Grand River.

IMPROVING SERVICES

The Integrated Cancer Center’s opening follows that of the MercyOne Dubuque Cancer Center, which began accepting patients in June.

That facility also offers radiation treatment and chemotherapy infusion through a partnership between MercyOne and Medical Associates Clinic.

The state required MercyOne to obtain a “certificate of need” to introduce radiation therapy services. The certificate program aims to prevent duplication of medical services and contain patient health care costs.

UnityPoint Health opposed the bid when the proposal twice appeared before the State Health Facilities Council in 2017 and the following year, arguing that approval would threaten the viability of the Wendt Center, but ultimately, it was approved.

Opening the Integrated Cancer Center did not require a certificate because it does not include a substantial investment in new medical equipment or the creation of a new health service.

The comprehensive services already provided at Finley will be readily accessible to patients at Integrated Cancer Center, including multidisciplinary care team planning, genetic counseling, cancer-based physical therapy and support groups.

“My mom had cancer, and she was cared for by both Grand River and Wendt Regional Cancer Center, and over that two-year period of time, back and forth across the street, it was tremendously stressful,” Wolbers said. “The coordination here, communication, is vastly improved. We are absolutely better together.”