Ground broken on Southwest Oklahoma Cancer Centers

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The Lawton Consitution

Published: July 12, 2006


“Hope and Healing Right Here at Home” was the theme Tuesday as ground was broken for the Lawton site of the Southwest Oklahoma Cancer Centers.

Physicians, technicians, nurses, hospital administrators, state and local officials and cancer survivors gathered in front of the Great Plains Surgical Clinic to mark the start of construction on the Lawton SOCC site.

Comanche County Memorial Hospital, Duncan Regional Hospital and Jackson County Memorial Hospital, all not-for-profit facilities, have joined forces to create three cancer centers that will bring previously unavailable treatment to Southwest Oklahoma.

Groundbreaking events also were held in Altus and Duncan Tuesday.

The doctors now practicing at the surgical clinic soon will move to new locations, and the facility will be renovated for use as the Lawton SOCC.
The cancer centers will be state-of-the-art facilities that will allow cancer patients to receive life-saving daily radiation treatments locally, eliminating the need to travel great distances for this care.

Dr. Mike Crutcher, Oklahoma’s commissioner of health, attended the event to represent Gov. Brad Henry. He thanked SOCC officials and supporters for their effort and initiative in bringing this level of care to the region. Crutcher said securing good medical care is a complex and difficult national problem.

“It’s a challenge to all leaders to provide high-quality health care to everyone, but it must be done because it’s the morally right thing to do,” he said.

Dr. Mittie Dragosljvich, medical director of oncology services at CCMH, said the new facilities will bring to an end the tragic situations where cancer patients had been forced to forgo treatment because they couldn’t afford or arrange transportation or couldn’t make the daily arduous journey.

“The harsh reality is that made cancer treatment unavailable to far too many people,” he said. “(SOCC) will touch the lives of many people. Soon people of the area won’t have to endure traveling far distances for treatment, and that will take a big burden off of them.”

Dragosljvich said not all cancer patients will need the complete range of advanced radiation treatment capable at SOCC, but having it locally available will “greatly increase the quality of life” of the patients served.

Attending the ceremony was a group of former cancer patients from around the area, and their presence was acknowledged by the speakers.

“The patients here today are living testimonials of why the Southwest Oklahoma Cancer Center is being created,” he said.

Pat Henry, chair of the CCMH Board of Trustees, also paid tribute to them.

“To the cancer survivors, I want to say thank you for helping making our dream become a reality,” she said. “A year from now we will gather again to celebrate the grand opening of all our new cancer centers and to celebrate the hope they will bring to cancer patients throughout the region.”

Dr. Mittie Dragosljvich, medical director for the radiology department at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for a Southwest Oklahoma Cancer Center in Altus. Dragosljvich said Jackson County will bring new radiation treatments to Southwest Oklahoma and north Texas patients, and limit driving. Many patients have to drive to treatments daily for months on end, he said. Once the center is operational, patients will only have to go to the central location in Lawton a fraction of the time and will be able to follow through on treatment “closer to their homes,” he said.

Bill Wilson, chief executive officer of Jackson County Memorial Hospital, addressed a full tent audience during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Altus’ Southwest Oklahoma Cancer Center site, located on the property north of the hospital’s entrance. Coming after eight years of preliminary work, the collaboration between Jackson County, Comanche County Memorial Hospital and Duncan Regional will bring “state of the art” care for patients through Southwest Oklahoma and north Texas.