Minnesota has enough radiation treatment centers, state says

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2013 - 11:25 PM

Rival groups of cancer doctors have spent millions in a debate over radiation-center needs.

Minnesota has enough radiation treatment facilities for patients, even though cancer cases are expected to grow by almost 24 percent in the next decade, according to a report released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The report, which was requested by the Legislature, is expected to fuel efforts to extend a hotly debated moratorium on new radiation treatment centers.

The Legislature imposed the moratorium in 2007 after a group of cancer specialists announced plans to build a new treatment center in Woodbury. Opponents said the new facility, which would have cost millions of dollars to set up, was unnecessary and would drain patients from nearby hospitals while driving up health care costs.

The moratorium covers 14 counties, including the Twin Cities and Duluth areas.

The report, released Friday, concluded that the number of cancer cases is likely to increase 23.5 percent by 2022, largely because of an aging population. But it said that existing radiation centers should be able to accommodate the growth, in part by extending their hours of operation.

The report concluded that the projected need for radiation therapy “is matched by available treatment capacity.”

Since the moratorium was imposed, two rival medical groups have spent millions of dollars to lobby the Legislature on the issue. Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, which runs a dozen centers, has spent more than $3 million to continue the moratorium, while rival Minnesota Oncology, which wanted to build the center in Woodbury, has spent more than $1 million to repeal it.

Dr. Thomas Flynn, president of Minnesota Oncology, said he was disappointed with the report.

“The idea that Minnesota should continue to have the only such moratorium in the United States goes against our state’s belief in fair access to treatment,” he said. He said his group would “continue to fight for our patients.”

A spokesperson for Minneapolis Radiation Oncology could not be reached Friday.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

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