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cancer center
Halkin Mason Photography

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be over 1,900,000 new cancer cases in 2023. To support patients as they undergo treatments, facilities such as the new Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center specialize in oncology services and provide accessible, expert cancer care. Located at the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the newly renovated 92,000 sq.-ft. center will offer more support for residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Now, an undulating facade welcomes patients to a new entrance. The building compliments the existing hospital using state-of-the-art design to reinvent the entry to the campus.

cancer center
Halkin Mason Photography

On the upper levels, fritted glass lends to a rhythm on the exterior that follows the structure’s form. The interior design concept incorporates biophilic principles into the spaces, including views of nature, natural materials, imagery and patterns. The lobby’s interior features abstract designs of local mountain views that are captured by the layering of wood-like materials and lighting that hugs the lobby’s walls, creating a beautiful backdrop for the space.

The interior design continues to reference patterns, textures, and colors found in nature from hexagonal patterns in privacy glass and ceramic mosaic tiles at elevators to watercolor impressions of natural settings in family lounges—the clever use of materials result in a calming and comforting atmosphere throughout the property.

cancer center
Halkin Mason Photography

To explore how this cancer center came to be, and how it was carefully designed to accommodate patient and family needs, Facility Executive spoke with Daniel Landesberg, MBA, Associate Vice President, Clinical Operations for the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center.

Facility Executive: What inspired you to revamp the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center? When did you first identify a need to offer a broader range of Oncology services?

Daniel Landesberg: The Henry Cancer Center (HCC) has been part of Geisinger since 1992 and has provided an invaluable resource to our community. Patient volumes steadily grew at the HCC and, by 2018, we were at capacity. We serve a community of over one million people. Cancer incidence was 5-7% above the national average in these communities, largely due to the aging of our population. Upon reviewing broader demographic trends, we noted that 30% of patients in our communities were leaving the area for cancer care. Additionally, there was great interest in expanding the acuity of services provided at the HCC. Patients from Northeast PA who need treatment for acute leukemia often have to choose between hospitals outside their home communities for care. Patients undergoing bone marrow transplants may be in the hospital for over a month, in some cases. Family involvement in cancer care is vital. For patients with these advanced care needs, having their loved ones so far away creates an added layer of stress.

As we continued to look at the broader picture as to where cancer care was going, we needed to expand access, which meant adding more treatment spaces and exam rooms. Creating a purposeful accommodation for families was important for our patients, so each of our treatment bays is larger and more private than before. With the goal of adding bone marrow transplant care, we incorporated more private treatment rooms for immunocompromised patients, a neutropenic waiting area, and added an 18-bed acuity adaptable inpatient unit, specially designed for oncology patients. Finally, we added a CyberKnife in 2020, a notable addition to our Radiation Oncology services that previously was only accessible in cancer centers in the major metropolitan areas.

Finally, we took the opportunity provided by this addition to improve GWV’s main lobby and add modern amenities that were not available in the original 1981 hospital. The hospital now features a smoothie bar, a full-service retail pharmacy, and a gift shop (Hydra Health) featuring specialty products for patients enduring cancer treatment.

To sum it up, the intuitive next step for the HCC at that time was to become a truly comprehensive cancer center where we had the facility that enabled us to provide everything our patients needed under one roof. Beyond the direct provision of patient care, we needed to identify a purposeful home for clinical research, teaching facilities for medical and nursing students and residents, psychosocial resources, and many other critical elements.

cancer center
Halkin Mason Photography

FE: How long did it take to complete this renovation from conception to completion? As a cancer center, what precautions did you take to ensure patients weren’t impacted during the construction phase?

Landesberg: We performed our programming and design in partnership with FCA in 2019. From the end of 2019 to early 2020, we selected a Construction Manager (Alvin H. Butz, Inc.) and engaged them in careful planning to ensure no services were interrupted during construction. This was a unique and challenging project given that it was integrated into a busy hospital and cancer center, connected to the existing facility at four points.

We completed the first enabling steps of construction in June 2020 and we are completing our final phase of construction in August 2023. This project consisted of a new ~100K SF building and a subsequent renovation of the original Henry Cancer Center. We worked diligently as a multidisciplinary team to consider the most efficient phasing plans and to keep pedestrian and vehicular access flowing. At various points in time, we set up temporary entrances, corridors, and other considerations to isolate the construction activity and preserve access.

FE: Did you face any challenges during this renovation? If so, how did you overcome them?

Landesberg: This was an incredibly challenging project. Much of this critical planning effort occurred during the frantic first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. The pandemic continued to challenge us throughout the project, from labor and supply availability challenges, to runaway inflation, to census surges at the hospital that impacted access to certain areas at various times. I am proud to say that, despite these issues, the project was completed on time and on budget! The operational elements took very careful consideration and our internal construction team, FCA and Butz did a remarkable job with the design, with considering viable alternatives when supplies or equipment were unavailable, and with timely buyouts. We made decisions quickly and seized on opportunities to leverage our scale.

FE: How do you feel about this new renovation? How has this enhanced the patient experience at the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center?

Landesberg: I couldn’t be more excited! I remember the excitement in the room at our original visioning sessions from several years ago, and to see that vision become a reality is an incredible feeling. I am so proud of the team that worked countless hours and brought forth incredible creativity under such difficult circumstances to execute on this plan.

We receive regular feedback from patients through Press Ganey patient experience surveys and our scores are steadily increasing. Some of the aforementioned phasing activities were vital for the safe completion of the project, but did cause some temporary inconveniences for patients that are now behind us. Given the charge to accommodate additional patient volume, we’ve grown our clinical team and access is much better for patients. All in all, we’re seeing the positive movement we expected, the program is growing, and we’re achieving what we set out to do—make better health easier for our friends and neighbors who need cancer care. Hearing the stories from our patients and knowing what an impact this facility will have on our community is incredibly rewarding.

cancer center
Halkin Mason Photography

FE: What has the reaction been like to this renovation from patients and visitors?

Landesberg: Our patients and visitors are thrilled with the new space. They appreciate how modern and open the new treatment room is, while providing privacy and comfortable visitor accommodations. The inpatient unit has gotten tremendous feedback so far from patients and families. Private rooms are a key differentiator, especially for this patient population. The rooms are beautifully appointed and have several thoughtful touches, including digital whiteboards and a lighting system that helps patients to maintain their circadian rhythm during a long hospital stay. All in all, we’re getting great feedback.

FE: What advice might you have for other facility executives or managers considering embarking on a renovation for this kind of facility?

Landesberg: It might seem obvious, but make sure to leverage the wisdom of your frontline caregivers and incorporate the voice of the patient. Our teams helped us design elements of the building that will impact their workflow, such as the layouts of each of the clinical areas and the headwalls in the treatment room and inpatient unit. Designing a space that works for staff and satisfies patients will increase engagement and retention. Also—talk about it! A project like this deserves a lot of attention. We did some fun events and media pieces to build up awareness amongst our staff and did some “behind the scenes” views of the construction zone to generate excitement. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary since the new addition opened!

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Read the full article "Renovated Cancer Center Supports Patients And Families In PA" on Facility Executive Magazine.

Facility Executive Magazine