In a unusual twist of “shop globally, but buy locally,” Marshall Medical Center has asked the community to support a cancer treatment facility in Cameron Park.
El Dorado County supervisors heard a presentation from long-time Marshall surgeon Dr. Albert DiVittorio during its afternoon session last Tuesday.
“What’s going on at Marshall is we have all the ingredients for a really good cancer program. But we don’t have a site,” DiVittorio said in his slide-show introduction. “We’re competing with some pretty heavy competitors — Kaiser, Sutter, Mercy and Radiology Associates of Sacramento. And our treatment dollars go down the hill. But when our patients have complications and need follow-up, they come here.”
Marshall’s currently plans to renovate existing buildings near its Cameron Park campus on Palmer Drive, he said. But the facility has not yet been secured for the cancer program.
Surgical or radiological treatment for breast cancer can easily average $150,000 to $200,000, DiVittorio said. Every time that money goes out of the county, other local providers and services lose out.
DiVittorio described Marshall’s goals with respect to a cancer treatment center as “community awareness of the program; community utilization of local resources and community support … I want the community to be involved.”
Resources and staff currently exist for a strong oncology program, he explained, but they are spread out in many individual offices and locations. One large facility could house 30 to 40 staff including social services, specialists and “patient navigators.” The latter he described as a sort of counselor-guide who helps patients negotiate their way through difficult and extremely complex treatment processes.
Part of the vision for the future could include a “full service clinic in El Dorado Hills,” he suggested. The vision, in effect, is part of a marketing campaign to find community partners that would include local services, major businesses and local government. He also recommended “a local representative in the community when group insurance issues” come up.
The county, school districts and other large employers could benefit from local relationships while community providers would reap comparable advantages, he suggested.
“The community will benefit from having us be strong,” he continued. “With these alliances, we’ll know how and where to compete and be able to develop a strong strategy that will lead to more jobs and specialties. We need to evolve rapidly to have a quality survival factor.”
DiVittorio further described state-of-the-art trauma, cardiology, obstetrics and orthopedics services as complementing the expanded oncology programs.
Supervisor Jack Sweeney had included DiVittorio’s presentation on the board agenda.
“”I’ve known him a long time,” Sweeney said. “His heart’s in local medicine.”
Sweeney then reminded the board and audience that only two community hospitals remain in the state of California – Barton Memorial at South Lake Tahoe and Marshall Medical Center on the county’s Western Slope.
“If we want a strong community, we have to support our community hospitals,” he said.
Supervisor Ron Briggs followed up on Sweeney’s remarks.
“Al, I concur with what Jack said. We need support for our hospital. I’ve often thought that there’s better care down the hill, but I know that’s not the case. And we need to ask ourselves when we (the county government) do our medical benefits programs, if we’re thinking of our own.”
He noted further that when his own children needed medical treatment, he took them to Marshall.
Supervisor Ray Nutting joined his colleagues in praise for Marshall.
“I’m a woodsman, and I get damaged, and you guys put me back together. And I can’t tell you how many times you’ve put me back together. I’ve been to Marshall many times. All my kids were born there, and the treatment and care are good.”
Marshall Administrator T Abraham noted the “800 pound gorilla” in the room when he emphasized the importance of having comprehensive cancer treatment more readily available.
“These cancer patients are really sick,” Abraham said. “So the local thing is really important.”
He went on to describe some of Marshall’s economic value in the community. “A lot of our staff live here. The average pay is $36 an hour, and many doctors are well into six figures of income,” he said.
Rick Vance, director of Infusion Services, also noted the economic development ramifications of working more aggressively in the community such as getting contracts for local employee benefit packages. A common trend in the medical community is to give up private practice, he said.
“Physicians are failing in our communities. They don’t want to run a business. They aren’t trained in OSHA or Human Resources or other employer rules. They want to practice medicine,” Vance said.
As the presentation was for information only, supervisors took no action on the matter other than to pledge their support and advocate for Marshall’s vision.