Memorial and Mercy Hospitals, along with the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center, are partnering to give cancer patients services at each medical center. This will allow the healthcare providers to combine their resources and enhance medical care for cancer patients here at home.
"There are so many children out there faced with this horrible disease and being home for care is beyond what's important," said Margaret Johnson, director of nursing at Mercy Hospital Downtown. Johnson said her grandson Isaac was diagnosed with a brain tumor three months ago.
"It was hurting bad," says 5-year-old Isaac Pizano, who told his family he thought his head was shrinking because of the tumor.
Johnson says Isaac started getting care at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, but eventually had to go to Madera for surgery. "At Memorial, they took wonderful care of him there," she says. "But they weren't able to take care of his needs, so we sent him up to Valley Children's in Madera and he had his surgery done there."
The joint venture between Mercy and Memorial Hospitals and the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center was announced in a news conference Monday in Bakersfield.
"This is a true partnership, this is not just words and not just pictures on a banner, we're really coming together as businesses," said Jon Van Boening of Dignity Health.
The partnership will allow cancer patients at Mercy and Memorial to gain access to state-of-the-art treatment at CBCC. It also gives outpatients at CBCC access to treatment inside a hospital.
"In Mercy Downtown, we will be building the first and only dedicated cancer unit inside of a hospital," said Russell Judd, president of Mercy Hospitals. "It will be located on the second floor and will be focusing on the care of cancer patients and their individual needs."
Dr. Ravi Patel, the medical director of the CBCC says his medical team sees cancer patients two or three times a day and then also in the evening before they are sent home.
"It is a lot safer to do it in a hospital on an ongoing basis," said Dr. Patel. "Patients with certain complicated treatments like for example, melanoma, where the patient needs to be in the hospital for five days, this will give us access to the patient, and the patient will have access in the hospital."
The healthcare partnership will also offer the first pediatric oncology program in Kern County at Memorial Hospital in the Lauren Small Children's Medical Center.
This means young patients like Isaac could stay closer to home for care.
"The option for him to be able to stay in town when he starts his chemotherapy, words cant describe how much of a relief that is," said Johnson.
Isaac will start chemotherapy in January. The inpatient cancer care unit at Mercy Hospital Downtown is expected to be completed early next year, about the same time the new cancer center at San Joaquin Hospital will start taking patients.
Judd says the inpatient unit will cost more than $500,000 and is funded by the Friends of Mercy.
A spokesperson for Dignity Health says the financial terms of the joint venture between Dignity and CBCC are still being negotiated.