Friday, November 05, 2004

Ladies and gentlemen, start your shovels

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Arctic-like temperatures Thursday morning failed to chill the enthusiasm of those attending a groundbreaking ceremony for Vallejo's Sutter Solano Medical Center's new Cancer Center and Medical Office Building.
The three-story, 58,000-square-foot facility is going up at a projected cost of $24 million. It is expected to be completed by September 2005.

"We waited three years for this as we expanded our cancer program and reached out to the community and this is very exciting," said Sutter Solano spokeswoman Janice Hoss. The new building is being billed as the only comprehensive, state-of-the-art cancer treatment center in Vallejo and its immediate vicinity.

"Focus groups and surveys showed people here don't want to have to leave the area for treatment," Hoss said.

Everything about the center - from the services offered to the building's design - will be geared to addressing "the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients," according to an official Sutter statement. Craig Mulford of the Sacramento and Colorado-based architectural firm of Boulder Associates who designed the center, said he had all those elements in mind as he and others worked out the building's details.

"It's located on a corner, and had to be a very prominent building to announced entry (into the medical complex)," Mulford said. "We needed to enhance landscaping to help create a sense of a special place where healing can begin."

The center's ground floor will offer radiation, medical oncology, chemotherapy suites, a resource center and library, support services, clinical trials, complimentary medicine, cancer support groups and other cancer services. "Healing environmental elements" like waterfalls, gardens and massage therapy, will be incorporated into the facility, the statement says. A fireplace in the library will add a touch of warmth, Hoss said. Medical offices will occupy the two upper floors, and there will be 243 dedicated parking spaces, as well.

An estimated 100 local dignitaries and others crowded the white tent set up in the parking lot near the center's construction site Thursday where, warmed by a free-standing pole heater, they listened to a series of speakers, and enjoyed the music of "Healing Muses."

Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli, Jr. expressed his gratitude to the Sutter organization for selecting Vallejo as the site for the new center. Pointing to the "huge need" for such a facility in the area, Intintoli said, "we are blessed in this community with wonderful medical facilities. This is a glorious day."

Cancer Center Building Committee member Dale Welsh echoed that sentiment, calling the groundbreaking "a banner day - a day of celebration and profound appreciation that cancer patients and their families who struggle bravely won't have to leave the community to get treatment."

Having cancer treatment available nearby is the biggest issue for cancer survivor Rev. Carolyn Dyson, whose daughter's breast cancer diagnosis came only four months after her own.

"I remember having to commute to our chemotherapy and radiation treatments," Dyson said. "I remember holding my left breast so my stitches wouldn't pop and looking for a place to sit and wait for my daughter to finish her treatment, and there was no place. I had to lay in the back seat of my car to rest and wait.

"I'm envisioning a place where patients' spiritual and emotional needs, as well as their medical ones, will be addressed," Dyson added. "This project is a godsend for patients and their families."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at: or call 553-6824.

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