HealthEast has unveiled plans for a new cancer treatment center at its Woodwinds Health Campus, marking another step in the Woodbury hospital's transformation into a comprehensive medical complex.
The new, 30,000-foot cancer center will be built in the area now occupied by the HealthEast Woodbury Clinic, a chemotherapy infusion and oncology facility that opened in Woodwinds in 2010. In the years since, HealthEast officials say the clinic has outgrown the 4,000-square-foot space, in part because of rising demand from Washington County's graying population — a 2012 study by the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority found that about one in three residents will be older than 55 by 2035.
Construction of the new cancer unit is expected to be completed next January.
HealthEast also announced plans to add two new pediatric and family clinics: One will be built on Tamarack Road and County Road 19, and is to open this fall, and the second will be housed in the Oak Center building near the hospital.
The new HealthEast Cancer Center will act as a "one-stop shop for our patients," many of whom were forced to travel large distances for treatment because of a lack of local services, said Chris Lemme, service line director for cancer care.
"People who are not feeling well and come in for frequent treatments, it's not uncommon to have patients treated five days a week for up to seven weeks for certain types of treatments," Lemme said at a "virtual groundbreaking" ceremony on Jan. 15.
He continued: "So, all of the things that a cancer patient needs we'll be able to offer on this campus. And the east metro is geographically dispersed in terms of land and area, that we get patients from Cottage Grove and beyond, all the way up to Hugo and further to the north. We treat some patients from western Wisconsin and over to, essentially, Minneapolis."
The new cancer center, which absorbs one of HealthEast's two radiation treatment facilities at St. John's Hospital-Health East in Maplewood, will dispense with a large seating area where patients wait to be summoned, in favor of smaller rooms where they can have more privacy, Health East said. Its walls will be painted "soothing" shades, to provide a more welcoming environment for patients.
The cancer center is the latest piece in what planners envision as a bustling medical corridor, catering to the health care needs of the county. When it opens in 2015, it will have the only radiation treatment center established since a moratorium on them was imposed in 2007. HealthEast said the Legislature had to approve its plan.
Janelle Schmitz, the city's planning and economic development manager, said that Woodbury will benefit economically from the project in the long run.
"It would bring beautiful aesthetics in terms of the quality of the developments, it brings jobs, it brings a tax base," Schmitz said Tuesday.