by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | February 15, 2022
The University of Chicago Medicine is offering to pay $633 million to construct the city’s first free-standing cancer center.
The 500,000-square-foot building would be located on and primarily cater to the South Side of Chicago, which has limited healthcare resources. It would consist of 128 beds for cancer patients to provide UChicago Medicine with more space for patients with digestive diseases, cardiology, orthopedics, trauma care, organ transplants and other acute care needs.
Should the proposal obtain the necessary regulatory approvals, construction is set to begin in 2023 and the facility should start admitting patients in 2026. "Among the challenges patients in need of cancer and complex care face are the capacity constraints at UChicago Medicine, which is full almost every day. This new expansion will address some of those constraints and give patients more access to the cancer and complex care they need," UChicago Medicine told HCB News.
Cancer death rates are almost twice the national average on the south side and are the second-leading cause of death for residents in the area. Cancer rates are expected to be 49% higher nationally in 2050 than they were in 2015, according to the CDC. Among South Siders, 56% seek care outside of their neighborhood and for cancer alone, 67% leave the area for inpatient care. According to research, the farther away a patient is from healthcare facilities, the worse their outcomes are, and longer length of hospital stays they face. There is also higher risk for no-show visits, chronic disease-related deaths, lower five-year cancer survival and increased overall disease burden.
In addition to providing vulnerable and lower-income patients greater access to care, the center will focus on disease prevention and early cancer detection to reduce the rate of advanced cases. It also will make sure patients receive all services in the same location to reduce stress and make their experience more comfortable.
"UChicago Medicine is one of two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Illinois. The cancer center will focus on prevention and early detection of cancer and be a hub for research into more aggressive forms of cancer," said the hospital.
Along with the center, UChicago and 12 other healthcare providers are forming the South Side Healthy Community Organization. The effort aims to support 400,000 residents and create 90 primary care and obstetrics jobs, as well as employ nearly 50 priority specialists and 250 community healthcare workers and coordinators. It will also include a connected care technology platform.
Building the center is expected to create more than 500 construction jobs, with 41% of contract dollars going to minority- and women-owned firms. UChicago Medicine has filed a Certificate of Need request to the Illinois Health Facilities and Service Review Board to fund the design and site planning for the center. The HFSRB will hold a public meeting in the coming weeks to evaluate the proposal.