Campaign launched for Norris Cotton Center North

A ceremony last month featuring more than 300 St. Johnsbury, Vt., area residents marked the opening of the Community Capital Campaign for Norris Cotton Cancer Center-North.

The center, a collaboration of eight regional hospitals, is being built at the former Ames Department Store site in St. Johnsbury. When it opens in September, it will offer approximately 114,000 residents of northeastern Vermont and New Hampshire’s North Country access to clinical trials, advanced radiation treatment, the latest cancer therapies and the expertise of oncologists from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center — one of 39 federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

“Perhaps there is no better example of the power of partnership between us and our communities than what we are gathered here today to commemorate: bringing the best cancer care possible right here for you, your family, your neighbors, your friends,” said James Varnum, DHMC hospital president. “The coming together for this very important purpose is a statement of what we really can do together.”

The project received its certificate of need from the state of Vermont in February 2004, based in large part on testimony from patients and caregivers who spoke compellingly of the challenges faced by patients who had to travel as much as two hours each way to receive cancer care at DHMC in Lebanon.

Physicians told the Public Oversight Commission that it was not unusual for patients to choose to forgo promising cancer treatments in order to avoid the financial, physical and emotional toll that the travel to DHMC would entail.

Total cost of the project is approximately $9.1 million, which includes $6 million in building costs and $3.1 million in equipment costs. Of the total, $5.3 million will come from equity funding provided by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and $2 million from philanthropy through the capital campaign. Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital provided the remaining $1.8 million to update a portion of the mechanical systems for the entire building.

The capital campaign has already reached 60 percent of its goal, with $1.2 million already pledged by donors during the silent phase of the campaign.

“Our community hospitals understand the burden of cancer care, and they want to reduce that burden for their patients,” said Bob Fuehrer of Peacham, Vt., campaign co-chair. “In the first year the cancer center is open, patients in our region who receive radiation therapy will travel 1.1 million fewer miles and will spend 20,000 fewer hours traveling to that treatment.”

Hospitals partnering in NCCC-North are Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Berlin, N.H.; Cottage Hospital, Woodsville, N.H.; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H.; Littleton Regional Hospital, Littleton, N.H.; North Country Hospital, Newport, Vt.; Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, St. Johnsbury, Vt.; Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, Colebrook, N.H.; and Weeks Medical Center Hospital, Lancaster, N.H.

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