The N.C. General Assembly has approved $180 million in funding for a new clinical cancer hospital to be built in the health care complex on Manning Drive. In a ceremony Thursday at UNC Hospitals, Gov. Mike Easley ’72 signed the bill into law. Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2006.
The funding will allow UNC Health Care to speed the planning that already has been under way for the new hospital, which will replace an aging cancer treatment facility built in the 1950s as a tuberculosis sanatorium. The new hospital also will serve as the clinical home for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 39 such National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the United States.
“The $180 million investment will be money well spent,” said William Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and chief executive officer of UNC Health Care. “It will make a tremendous positive impact on the lives of many of our state’s one-quarter million cancer patients.”
The seven-story hospital will be built in front of the existing N.C. Neurosciences Hospital, just to the east of the building it is to replace. The project will include a physician office building on the south side of Manning Drive.
The number of patients coming to UNC for cancer care has increased 35 percent in the past six years. That number is expected to nearly double over the next 30 years due to the aging of the population.
The new hospital will incorporate teleconferencing facilities to include community-based physicians in treatment planning for their patients, allowing most treatments to be continued in their home communities.
After concluding his remarks, Easley introduced cancer survivor Rick Hendrick, owner of an automobile dealership and a NASCAR racing team. Hendrick received treatment for his leukemia in a clinical trial in Houston. That treatment was not available to him in North Carolina.
“What’s so important about what you’re doing here today, it’s hard when you have a loved one that’s diagnosed with cancer, or you’re diagnosed with cancer,” Hendrick said. “But it’s even tougher to leave home. It’s hard on a family.”
“You folks in the Legislature and Gov. Easley, you ought to feel really proud today that you’ve done something for this state. Because you’re going to help families, you’re going to save lives, you’re going to touch the people of North Carolina,” Hendrick said.
The new hospital should result in positive economic ramifications, according to UNC Health Care research and an independent study.
Conservative estimates anticipate that the new hospital could generate $26 million a year in additional research funding, providing jobs for 240 new full-time employees and 25 new clinical faculty who spend about half their time conducting research.
UNC Health Care commissioned Tripp Umbach Healthcare Consulting Inc. of Pittsburgh, a leading provider of economic impact analysis for academic medical centers, to conduct a study of the cancer hospital’s economic impact. Last month, the consultants reported that the new N.C. Cancer Hospital would bring about substantial new economic and social benefits to the state. The study found that cancer services at UNC currently have an economic impact of $251 million. By the time the new hospital opens in 2010, this impact should grow to $405 million – a $154 million increase.