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11-02-02: Cancer center holds groundbreaking ceremony
The Daily Standard
    Officials from five regional hospitals got their first glimpse of plans for a new cancer treatment center being built in Celina and the facilityšs newly hired administrator.
    The $6.8 million, 24,000-square-foot oncology center is a collaborative project of the West Central Ohio Regional Healthcare Alliance, comprising hospitals in Coldwater, St. Marys, Van Wert, Lima and Bellefontaine. A future center that will be part of the same regional network is being planned for Bellefontaine.
    Officials used a Friday ground breaking ceremony to unveil an artistic rendering of the center, to be called the Grand Lake Regional Cancer Center. The facility will be mostly red brick with white trim and will have lots of windows. It is to be built on 5.75 acres on the east side of Celina between Havemann Road and Pro Drive and slated for completion late next year.
    The treatment center will be led by Administrator John Koenig, 33, a St. Marys native returning home after 15 years in Milwaukee, Wisc. Jim Isaacs, chief executive officer of Community Hospital, Coldwater, is serving as president of the Cancer Network of West Central Ohio, the non-profit entity set up by the hospital alliance.
    In a brief interview following the ceremony, Koenig told The Daily Standard that it was the chance to lead a new project like this one and a chance to come home that lured him from Wisconsin. There, he served as administrator of the cancer center at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, a center that boasts 200 affiliated physicians and research scientists and $8 million in annual research funding.
    When he left the area 15 years ago, it hardly seemed a promising market for its own oncology unit, Koenig said.
    "I would not have ever guessed it, but what a great service to have in this community as opposed to hour-long travel for five or six weeks," Koenig said.
    Celina was selected by alliance officials and experts who researched the project because it is centrally located to capture a market that is now fractured among cancer centers in Lima, Dayton, Columbus and Fort Wayne, Ind. Officials expect the center to serve a 10-county area.
    Koenig said he believes his new position will allow him to be more involved in community affairs than at his prior job. Strategic planning, fund-raising, marketing and meeting the expectations of the five participating hospitals will all be part of his work, he said.
    Among his goals are to set up a regional tumor registry. The registry is a comprehensive listing of every cancer case within the market area. Such a compilation allows experts to learn more about the disease, he said.
    During the ground breaking ceremony, Isaacs reminded the crowd of the alliancešs vision for a full-service facility. The new oncology center will provide chemotherapy and radiation treatment, detection and screening services, spiritual support, education and research, Isaacs said.
    "The creation of this regional cancer network will be our most significant accomplishment," Isaacs said, citing past joint projects that include the Call-a-Nurse program, group purchasing, the mobile health van and others.
    In a prayer before the ceremony, Dr. Mark Skaja, vice president of mission services for St. Ritašs Medical Center in Lima, said the center will be a "house of healing, a place of hope."
    The hospitals are sharing equally in the expenses and profits of the project. The expense to each would be greatly reduced if officials are able to secure some federal assistance for the project. Congressional leaders are expected to decide within the next month or so whether $3 million will be appropriated to help build the center.


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