WVU Medicine announces new details on cancer center in Princeton, ER in Bluefield


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Within three years, a $64.5 million investment will benefit the region by bringing a new comprehensive cancer center to Princeton and a new full-service emergency department with imaging and laboratory services to Bluefield.

A new cancer center and a new emergency department in Mercer County are among the almost $400 million in investments the West Virginia University Health System is making across the state. Representatives of WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital and local dignitaries met Tuesday outside the Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias in Bluefield to unveil the two projects.

"So we have two projects today that we're celebrating and talking about," said Karen Bowling, president and CEO of WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital. "One is going to be a cancer center that's located in Princeton. It's a 50,000-square foot building with two stories with the ability to actually add a third floor if necessary. It will house our infusion center for our patients to be able to receive not only their cancer treatments, but we do other kinds of infusions as well. The primary floor will be radiation oncology. We currently provide that service over at our Bluefield campus, but again, it's a smaller area and we believe there's such a great need in this 10-county region — West Virginia and Southwest Virginia — that this growth of the cancer center is going to be essential to insure the health and well being of the people in this region."

The new cancer center will be constructed alongside the Princeton hospital's Parkview Center.

"If you went into Parkview entrance and you were walking into it, it would be to your left," Bowling said. "We're going to extend it out to the left of Parkview. You'll see we're working right now on tearing down some buildings so we can add some parking, so it's part of our project. We think it's the ideal location because we're opening our brand-new Cancer Office in May and it's in Parkview; so we'll have a one-stop shop for our cancer patients. They can walk in, see their physician in the Parkview, then they would be able to go right over to have radiation or their therapy if need be."

The emergency department now located at the former Bluefield Regional Medical Center, now occupied by Bluefield State University, will be relocated to the pavilion. Cassandra Stalzer, the hospital's director of public relations and marketing, previously said WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital currently leases space in the existing building right now, and would be ending that lease once the new ER is developed at the Bluefield Pavilion.

"The hospital here is a behavioral health facility, which services, again, a 10-county region," Bowling said. "We have unused space. This building used to be the old St. Luke's Hospital 25 years ago or so; and that unused space, we'll be able to convert it and add an additional 11,000 square feet."

Besides emergency services, the new addition will offer other health care amenities.

"Once we do that, we'll be adding a full-service emergency department with 10 observation beds. We'll be adding full-time MRI, CT, ultrasound, all the support services that are needed for people in this area of the county," Bowling said. "For example, rather than drive to Princeton to get an MRI, you can come here to the Bluefield campus. Same for the ultrasound and the CT."

"The issues with the bed shortages we see in our geographic region, having those 10 observation beds allows us to keep the less severe patients that really don't need an ICU (intensive care unit), keep them here in this community to be taken care of," she said. "There are lots of really positive things happening here."

Bowling said the goal is to work on both projects simultaneously.

"We'll be engaging an architect within the next few months and then a construction manager, and then we'll be looking to hopefully break ground on this project in the later part of next year," she said.

Smaller communities usually cannot afford projects like the ones which were unveiled Tuesday, Bowling said

"Communities just can't afford it, but when you're backed by a larger organization like WVU Medicine, who's very committed to bringing services to local communities, that's what makes the difference," she said. "And the partnership that WVU Medicine, Princeton Community Hospital entered into three years ago, that's what made this happen today."

Rusty Sarver, chairman of the board for WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital, told the audience that the hospital's board of director has worked to improve the region's health care services.

"We have always been focused on continuing service lines and creating new service lines, and that's been the focus of the board the entire time I've been on the board," Sarver said. "The board really cares about the community we serve and the people."

The $64.5 million investment by WVU Medicine shows the organization's goal to improve health care in southern West Virginia and Southwestern Virginia, he said.

"With the emergency department and the new cancer center in Princeton, I mean, it just shows the commitment," Sarver said.

Mayor David Graham of Princeton, who is also on the hospital's board of directors, said about five years ago the process of turning the hospital's management over to WVU Medicine was started.

"In discussions, we were assured the ultimate goal was to make WVU Princeton Community Hospital a medical hub for West Virginia and Southwest Virginia," Graham said. "During this transition, a state-of-the-art cath lab has been completed that has saved countless lives. Additional beds have been opened for patients and now continuous openings of beds for patients."

Both Graham and Mayor Ron Martin of Bluefield thanked WVU Medicine and the people at the Princeton hospital for their work on both projects.

"On behalf of my board, thank you all for the partnership. Thank you for what you are doing here, the facility you're going to build out," Martin said.

Martin recalled when Bluefield Regional Medical Center was a for-profit hospital which paid B&O taxes to the city and how the city adjusted its budget when the hospital closed.

"We all know the challenges that came after that. We adjusted to that," Martin said. "We welcomed Rusty and his team and the things that we thought were going to happen. Somethings things don't work out the way you expect. They work out better."

"This is a perfect example. This is what's best for our community," he said. "This is a region and the region is overall better off health care-wise than we were seven years ago, so we really appreciate the partnership. We appreciate you building out this beautiful campus. We look forward to working on making this highway entrance work for the hospital and look forward to the growth that comes in the future, so thank you, thank your team, Rusty. Thank you for your foresight and leading us all through a challenging time."

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com