Getting diagnosed with cancer won’t get any easier, but getting radiation treatment is set to become more accessible for residents of Pendleton and the surrounding area.
Through its development company RBS Evolution, Radiation Business Solutions announced it plans to open a radiation oncology center in 2019.
The Joelton, Tennessee company already operates three oncology centers in Alaska and Oklahoma, specializing in rural areas where access to radiation therapy isn’t readily available. In an area where many cancer patients have to travel to Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, or further for treatment, RBS thought Pendleton was a good candidate for its services.
Although RBS has no facilities in the Northwest, President Greg Merrill said the company has connections to the region through its other services, like billing for other oncology practices.
Merrill said RBS is in negotiations to hire an oncologist to staff the center, and it expects to make a hire within the next few months.
After a year of research and planning, RBS bought a nearly two-acre lot on Southwest 24th Street across from Rice Blakey Park.
The oncology center is being planned within close proximity to St. Anthony Hospital, and Merrill said RBS has been in discussions with hospital officials on how to collaborate with each other.
Merrill said St. Anthony will still offer medical oncology services like chemotherapy infusions and RBS will make use of the hospital’s imaging equipment.
St. Anthony President Harry Geller said he hopes the hospital and RBS have had several discussions about the new facility and what it will offer.
Geller said RBS’ linear accelerator — a machine that uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells — will be a complimentary piece to St. Anthony’s service, although it will be ultimately up to a patient’s doctor to determine whether they should go to the Pendleton oncology center or elsewhere.
Merrill said the oncology center should be able to treat most forms of cancer, including prostate, breast, and lung cancer. If RBS can’t treat a patient for their form of cancer, he said the company will refer patients to another facility.
The company also promises to make an effort at “mitigating financial concerns surrounding radiation oncology.” Merrill explained that RBS would negotiate with patients’ insurance companies directly to try to lower costs during treatment.
Despite RBS’ headquarters being a couple of time zones away, RBS intends to solicit community involvement in the project.
Merrill said RBS wants to start a locally based nonprofit organization that would generate cancer awareness campaigns and arrange for lodging accommodations for patients who need to stay in Pendleton overnight.
Merrill added that RBS is also looking for local investors to invest in the oncology center.