Four months after opening, Cayman’s new chemotherapy unit is catering to more local patients who are opting to stay in Grand Cayman for their treatment rather than traveling overseas.
“Certainly there are patients now who might have elected to go overseas but are choosing to stay here because they know that there is this new beautiful state-of-the-art space that is a lovely environment to be in. The experience of getting chemotherapy here has been greatly enhanced,” said Jennifer Weber, operations manager of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
Cayman’s outpatient chemotherapy unit, formerly occupied by the old Lighthouse school on Pines Road, has been operating since July and has the capacity to treat up to four patients at the same time.
“I don’t know the specific numbers, but I know that every time I go there, it is a busy, happy place. We actually did have two patients of ours who did most of their treatments overseas before the chemo unit opened, and they got to do their last couple of treatments in the new facility,” said Ms. Weber.
The Cancer Society spent roughly $400,000 on building the high-end facility, which offers patients private parking, hardwood floors, free Wi-Fi, custom infusion chairs equipped with televisions, and a view of lush greenery surrounding a fountain.
Before, cancer patients had chemotherapy in a windowless room in the Ambulatory Unit at the hospital. “The old unit … wasn’t conducive to receiving chemotherapy treatments,” said Betty Ann Duty, director of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
The idea behind the new unit was not only to expand the capacity, but also to offer a more uplifting and emotionally healing environment.
“We’ve always had a small chemotherapy unit within the hospital. And when the Cancer Society saw it, we thought it was something we could partner with the Health Services Authority to improve because it simply did not have enough space,” said Ms. Duty.
Last year, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Health Services Authority signed an agreement which said that the Cancer Society would be responsible for building and equipping the unit, and would then hand ownership back to the hospital after the official opening, which took place last month.
After the memorandum of understanding was signed, construction work began a few months later, which involved gutting the old building and starting fresh, said Ms. Duty.
Following the opening, the Cancer Society made an agreement with the HSA to maintain the equipment, provide the salary for one chemotherapy nurse, as well as training for the next five years at the cost of $750,000.
There are three chemotherapy nurses working at the facility, who have the ability to mix each patient’s chemotherapy drugs at a dedicated pharmacy in the unit.
The unit eliminates the need for patients to travel overseas for treatment, which is costly, said Ms. Duty. Along with paying for cancer treatments, a patient often will have to pay for airfare for themselves and a family member, and accommodation.
Now local patients are under less financial strain and have the ability to get treatment close to home.
“As soon as it was opened, a couple of families were elated to bring their family members home, so that they could continue to have their treatment here, surrounded by the support of family and friends and all the comforts of home,” Ms. Weber.
Patients have been giving the unit positive reviews, according to Cancer Society staff.
“Thank you and the Cancer Society for your support and assistance. The new chemo unit is so comfortable and it allowed us to bring our family member home sooner from overseas to be with us. You all do a great job and we are blessed to have you,” said a patient in a thank you card addressed to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
The Cancer Society estimates that the new unit will sustain 912 visits per year, 400 more than the previous unit. “Just to see the difference between the old unit and the new unit, we know that we’ve done something right,” said Ms. Duty.