Health Care

Via Christi to open cancer center

Next week, Via Christi on St. Francis will open its $9 million Via Christi Cancer Institute.

Encompassing about half of the hospital's seventh floor, the institute will present cancer patients with a far different environment in which to convalesce.

The 40,700-square-foot unit combines sconce light fixtures, sound-dampening ceiling tiles, remotely controlled window blinds and blue and green pastel colors to create a hospital unit that feels like anything but a traditional hospital nursing unit.

"It feels warm and welcoming and uplifting," said Patti Moser, administrative nursing director for Via Christi oncology services. "Those are actually the words used by one of the nurses today."

Moser said she hopes the new unit will go a long way toward enticing more doctors and patients the hospital's way.

"It can grow our volume," she said.

The unit, with 40 private rooms, will accept its first patients July 7. A public open house is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The unit took almost a year to construct and several years to plan, including feedback from physicians and staff, patient focus groups and cues from Via Christi's new west-side hospital, St. Teresa, Moser said.

GLMV Architecture was the architect and Hutton Construction was the general contractor.

The new unit replaces two former cancer nursing units.

It expands Via Christi oncology's capabilities by increasing the number of rooms to care for bone marrow transplant patients and expanding the size of its ambulatory infusion center. The new unit also will house surgical and medical oncology patients, thereby increasing continuity of care for patients who have to undergo both surgery and chemotherapy and radiation for treatment.

Previously, surgical oncology patients were assigned to the hospital's surgical nursing units.

"That way they are familiar with the unit, familiar with the staff and they should be more comfortable, which is the goal," Moser said.

The unit is also vastly different from others because of its non-medical amenities, such as a yoga room, two massage therapy rooms and a media room that will have seating for 12 and allow patients to watch movies with their families — away from their rooms.

"They're going through a lot and they deserve to have a comfortable environment," said Margie Kessler, director of nursing oncology.

Conversion of the unit also represents the first step in Via Christi's plan to switch to private rooms at all its Wichita hospitals by 2016.