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A local health care company is investing $22 million in facility upgrades and new equipment, including “game-changing” technology that could help save lives.
Dayton Physicians Network, a multi-specialty medical group that provides cancer treatment and urological services, is expanding one of its facilities and renovating two others to make room for new radiation equipment. The expansions also will lead to new hires, with up to 30 employees added in the next year as a result of the project. The group currently employs 400 people at its Dayton-area facilities.
The upcoming expansion also could provide work for area builders and suppliers.
The physician network recently purchased imaging machines and linear accelerators, which can be used as radiation treatments for patients with cancer. The equipment will touch nearly every facility the network operates — seven locations from Greenville to Middletown — but the bulk of investment will occur at the Greater Dayton Cancer Center in Kettering, Atrium Medical Center in Middletown and Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy.
The equipment purchase was a joint venture with Dayton Physicians and Dayton-based Premier Health. The physician network leases space from Premier in a few of its hospitals, including Atrium and Upper Valley, but it is an independent group.
Dr. Gregory Rasp, medical director and radiation oncologist at DPN, said the new equipment will turn “good treatment into great treatment.”
“It’s going to allow for more accurate treatment, and more accurate treatment means better cure rates and lower complication rates,” Rasp said. “Basically, it will help us diagnose cancers better and treat them better.”
The imaging component will include new software called Smart Metal Artifact Reduction, which eliminates what medical professionals call “streaking.” Streaking is common in patients with fillings, artificial hips or other procedures involving the insertion of metal, which makes it difficult to visualize where a tumor starts and stops.
In addition, the equipment will allow physicians to more accurately position patients for treatment. This will cut down on errors that can occur if a patient moves during treatment, and helps doctors pinpoint the exact area needed for radiation therapy.
“With the newer equipment, the computer automatically adjusts for those shifts and rotations, and puts us right on the money with treatment,” Rasp said. “It’s kind of a game-changer because it allows us to treat a smaller area. Small areas mean less complications.”
The hope is enhanced treatment will decrease side effects and increase cure rates by 3 percent to 4 percent. Rasp said even if cure rates improve by just a few percentage points, it will save lives.
“Even if the cure rate stays the same, which we don’t anticipate, we can reduce the number of people having complications from the radiation,” he said. “It’s going to make it a lot easier on them and their families.”
The new equipment is expected to be installed in the first and second quarter of 2019, but before it is up-and-running, DPN must make some upgrades to its facilities.
At the Greater Dayton Cancer Center in Kettering, a new addition will be constructed onto the existing facility, and “significant remodeling” will occur at Upper Valley and Atrium, Rasp said. Wayne Cancer Center in Greenville also will be remodeled, though he said it will be less significant.
Each facility is likely to see an increase of 900 to 1,000 square feet, which include seven-foot-thick concrete walls needed to shield the radiation. Most of these walls are already constructed, though another “vault,” as Rasp described it, may need to be added at the Kettering center.
DPN has contracted with Dayton-based Sharp Conway Architects to design the project. Once the drawings are finalized, construction bids will be released. Rasp said the hope is one construction company will work on each facility.
Construction on each location will be staggered, and the first facility is expected to be completed in four to six months. Rasp said they’ll likely start in Middletown.
The facility upgrades and new equipment add to millions of dollars in investment DPN has been making in the last few years. Rasp said they’ve reinvested $18 million in the practice since 2012, and the latest project will bring them up to $40 million over a six-and-a-half year period.
“In a lot of groups, that money would just funnel to shareholders,” he said. “But we’ve always known that we need to reinvest it to be at the cutting edge of things, and in turn the practice grows. The other thing is we always put patients first over profits. I know that sounds like something every doctor says, but we’ve always had this belief that we need to have the highest quality standards for our patients.”