Since its partnership with West Cancer Center officially ended last month, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) has wasted little time in starting to build its own cancer treatment organization.
With little fanfare - not even a news conference - MLH already has launched the Methodist Cancer Institute, a comprehensive cancer center in partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).
In addition, MLH this month won approval to bring precision MRI-guided radiation therapy treatment to Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. And while no announcement has yet been made, one might well expect a portion of the newly dedicated 450,000-square-foot Shorb Tower to be devoted to MLH's newly formed Cancer Institute.
The nine-story tower, named for its longtime CEO Gary Shorb, was part of MLH's $275-million modernization plan in 2016. Before the dissolution of the partnership, the top four floors of the tower at Bellevue and Eastmoreland were designated for West's cancer endeavors. Understandably, there is speculation on what now will be done with those four floors that still are not finished out, but there is no word from Methodist Le Bonheur president and CEO Michael Ugwueke. However he did address the Methodist Cancer Institute in a recent news release.
"As MLH pursues its vision of building a National Cancer organization-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - one of only 49 in the country - it will be built on a strong foundation to elevate education, research and clinical services in partnership with UTHSC," Ugwueke was quoted in the release.
"I am excited about the direction we are headed as we continue our work to bring world-class academic physicians and community physicians together to serve our entire community."
MLH, a 100 year old institution that provided care through nearly 2.2 million patient encounters last year, already has been able to regain some of the funds it most likely lost when the partnership dissolved.
On February 22, shortly after the seven-year partnership officially ended, MLH sold its 198,000-square-foot medical facility at 7945 Wolf River Blvd. to West Cancer Center for $51 million. Seven years earlier, in 2013, MLH purchased the building from the UT Medical Group for $22.5 million.
This month, MLH 's approval to bring precision MRI-guided radiation therapy treatment to Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital will allow it to initiate the addition of an MRI/RT Linear Accelerator to be added to the hospital's megavoltage radiation therapy services.
"We're incredibly excited to receive this approval as we continue our work to create a comprehensive cancer program focused on providing expert cancer care across all of the communities we serve," said Ugwueke said. "Adding a linear accelerator to our Germantown Hospital will enable us to bring advanced treatment options out East and continue to elevate care in Germantown and surrounding areas just as we have done for more than 20 years."
Hospital officials say with the addition of the MRI/RT Linear Accelerator, MHT MLH becomes the first to bring this innovative technology to Tennessee,
Linear Accelerators are a type of external beam radiation therapy that delivers a beam of high energy x-rays directly to the location of a tumor or other tissue being irradiated. The technology images soft tissue, not just the bone and air that conventional technology captures to improve treatment accuracy and reduce the amount of radiation to which a patient is exposed.
This approval marks an important milestone as MLH works to create the new Methodist Cancer Institute in partnership with The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). As, MLH is well positioned to elevate Education, Research and Clinical services and achieve its vision of building a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - one of only 49 in the country.
As for West, the hospital made its intentions clear last year. In September in announcing its termination of the partnership, West officials cited its "40-year legacy of innovation," and said it will begin 2019 on a new course, with a new partner, OneOncology a Nashville-based cancer care startup. A West release stated it is "evolving into a new model - one, that will be a patient-centric, physician-driven and technology-powered center with a mission to improve the lives of those living with and beyond cancer."