Hospital plans cancer center
by Andrea Gonzalez, Uvalde Leader News Staff Writer A four-acre land donation by Joe Puccini to Uvalde Memorial Hospital in August of last year now has an official purpose.
CLEARING – Workers have already started to clear the four acres of land that was donated by Joe Puccini for use as a possible cancer treatment facility
A four-acre land donation by Joe Puccini to Uvalde Memorial Hospital in August of last year now has an official purpose.
According to UMH Administrator Jim Buckner, the board of trustees of the hospital has given the go ahead to raise money for a regional cancer treatment center.
“The intention to make this a cancer treatment facility was agreed upon at our last board meeting in January,” he said. “The donation was given with no strings attached, but with the hope it would be used in this way.”
According to Buckner, the plans are still in the very developmental stage.
“Discussions on this idea started a while ago,” he said. “We knew that this was a big need in the community. Right now, people have to travel to San Antonio to receive treatment, and some patients simply don't go because they just can't get there.”
Plans include raising an estimated $2 million dollars for the construction of the treatment center. Additional medical offices in the building would cost $3 million, bringing the total cost of the project to $5 million.
The outfitting of the building with hardware for services would be left up to a private company.
“For a while we didn't know if this could be done,” Buckner said. “We weren't sure if we had enough volume to make a sustainable center. We know now that if we put the effort into getting the building made, a company could come in to run it and just spend money on what goes inside.”
He went on to say there is an “If you build it, they will come” mentality to the undertaking.
“We spoke with local oncologists and physicians who all agreed that this was a great idea,” he said. “The encouragement I have is very reassuring.”
He went on to stress that the whole concept was still in the formulation and dream stage.
“If everything goes okay, we are looking at a time line of about one year. We want this so badly for the community. It could really alleviate some suffering. This dream is achievable. It will just take some time.”
To achieve the dream, a cancer center task force has been formed. Heading the task force are Dr. John L. Shudde and Roger Berry. Other members are Buckner, Vicente Gonzales III, John Blades, Alexis Petty, Sheri Rutledge, Janet White, Rene Nolasco, Lewis Bracy, Carol Kothmann, Billy Kessler, Rose Puente, Charla Carter and Gilbert Lozano.
The group is passionate about the need for the regional center, which would serve not only the Uvalde area but also the Leakey, Hondo, Eagle Pass and Del Rio areas.
It would allow patients from the region to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments here instead of traveling hundreds of miles to San Antonio or Houston.
“In 2002 Uvalde County had 43 new cases of cancer and according to statistics we are seeing on average 45 new cases a year,” said Lozano, who is director of the Sabinal Clinic for UMH.
“The area we serve as a hospital, there is an average of 240 new cancer cases a year,” he said.
“This is added to the existing number already diagnosed and being either treated or have completed treatment but are not in remission,” he said.