ELKO – Rural cancer patients will once again have to travel out of town for their radiation therapy after the Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center closes its doors on May 30.
The announcement was made at the Elko County Board of Health meeting April 18 by Commissioner Cliff Eklund, who expressed regret that the center was closing
“I’m kind of sad to see it go because I think it was a great benefit to local people so they didn’t have to travel to Reno and Salt Lake for radiation treatment,” Eklund said.
Dan Moore, CEO of Radiation Business Services Evolution, which is the managing partner for the oncology center, confirmed the closure in a statement.
“We are sad to announce that Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center will be closing its doors in late May. Unfortunately, we have been unable to garner the support of the local medical community,” Moore said.
Eklund said the center was having problems obtaining referrals, and cited that as one of the reasons for the closure.
“There was a lack of communication, I think, between the cancer center and the local doctors where they weren’t getting referrals,” Eklund said, adding that efforts to recruit a medical oncologist to the area failed.
The building will be up for sale, and Eklund said he hoped that a new oncology center would move in.
Moore said the center was successful in treating more than 100 people who were saved a trip out of town for their radiation treatment.
“Since we opened the facility in 2015, we have helped over 100 patients to stay close to home for their cancer treatment,” Moore said. “We are grateful that we were able to make a difference for those patients and their families.”
The center will remain open to complete treatment for all of its current patients, Moore said.
The company lost $10 million within the three years it was opened and saw about 140 patients, 110 of whom had radiation treatment, said Denise Gerlach, vice president of marketing for RBS Evolution.
Fabrizza Baeza, physician and community outreach director, spoke on behalf of NNROC, joined by Shila Morgan, front office coordinator and Lacey Hermann, radiation therapist.
“It was a sad day today when we had to inform our patients,” Baeza said. “Our priority is to take care of our patients and we’re going to continue to provide treatment until all of our patients have graduated. Then we will go from there.”
Baeza pointed to the impact the center had on families who were dealing with cancer, and said she wasn’t sure if enough people knew what the center accomplished by providing cancer treatment.
“I don’t think people understand, maybe some do, [about] what these families are going through,” Baeza said. “These people [are] fighting for their health.”
Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi agreed with Eklund that the loss of the oncology center and its “cutting-edge technology” in rural Nevada was sad news. He said he understood the additional burden cancer patients faced when having to travel for their treatments.
“This is a sad day, there’s no question about it,” Andreozzi said. “I know people, personally, who were treated there.”
Local artist and breast cancer survivor Glen Ellen Finley said she was “upset” to hear of the center’s closing, saying the community did not support the center enough.
“The community did not embrace it,” Finley said. She said she avoided radiation therapy in Salt Lake City for her first round of breast cancer because she didn’t have relatives to stay with while she underwent treatment.
“This means people have to go to Salt Lake City for six weeks for 10 minutes of treatment, and you have to stay the rest of the day,” Finely said. “That’s a hardship for anyone who has to go through it.”
Finley praised the staff for the care they provided their patients.
“They were very polite, very warm and very good with patient care, explaining what would happen next. They were very, very thorough,” Finley said. “I’ve tried to bolster the place, telling people their equipment and services were as good as Salt Lake City’s.”