Nanticoke Health Services dedicates redesigned Allen Cancer Center

SEAFORD — A redesigned look with a touch of home for cancer care and treatment in western Sussex County arrived much sooner than initially projected, thanks in large part to a Seaford couple: Chick and Barbara Allen.

Before a huge turnout of community members, Nanticoke Health Services on tuesday formally dedicated Nanticoke Health Services’ new-look Allen Cancer Center with a ceremony and tours of the two-story facility that underwent major redesign, expansion and upgrade geared to eliminate the “clinic/office feel” that previously existed.

Each year Nanticoke treats more than 5,000 cancer patients. Ms. Allen is among them.

“This is a great facility. But what makes this even more of a great facility — not just the mortar and glass — is the people that work here,” said Ms. Allen. “I will tell you from my own experience, the nurses, everyone here really … they greet you warmly.”

“The first time I came here I wasn’t feeling too ‘warmly,’” said Ms. Allen. “They treat you warmly. The nurses are so kind, so compassionate. And I’ve said several times they all have a good sense of humor, which I think is extremely necessary. If it wasn’t for them, we’d just have a nice big room.”

Total cost of the project, including architectural design, construction, furnishings and incidentals, is in the $1.7 million/$1.8 million ballpark, Nanticoke Health Services president/CEO Steve Rose said.

Mr. and Ms. Allen, who joined Allen Cancer Center Director Rachel Gardner in the ceremonial ribbon cutting, donated $1.1 million to the project. Their generous contribution greatly expedited its completion.

“The community needs this,” said Mr. Allen. “When you see so many people having a need for quality cancer treatment and you see them coming in the door, they are friends, they are neighbors, they are former employees, you see how busy they are. It needed expanding. The hospital already had a program in place to do an expansion. But they were looking at a three-to-five-year fundraising event to make it happen.”

“So, after my wife was here for a while for treatment, we began thinking, ‘Let’s jumpstart this. The community needs it,’” said Mr. Allen. “It is for the community. A lot of people have contributed to it, not just us. We stepped in and helped. A lot of people in this community have donated time and money to this effort. It’s all appreciated, and it’s all needed. We’re just happy to be able to be a part of it.”

“They recognized the need,” said Ms. Gardner. “It would have taken us a really long time to get to that point.”

“Barbara and Chick Allen really made this happen for us,” said Mr. Rose.

The cancer care center redesign effort included financial support from many supporters. Among them: McDonald’s franchise owner Mike Meoli, the Baynum family of Pizza King restaurants; Nanticoke Health Services Foundation dinner/auctions and the Ladies 9-Hole Golf Association, who make annual charitable contributions.

“A lot of people were very generous and very giving. It all goes back to the community,” said Mr. Rose.

Featured in the Allen Cancer Center:

• A redesigned entrance;

• Expansion from eight to 14 infusion bays that allow patients to control their environment, from lighting to entertainment options;

• An onsite pharmacy that is more efficient and provides safer patient care;

• A blood draw station for patient convenience; and

• An unobstructed view of the majestic Nanticoke River.

“Interacting with nature, even just viewing it, is proven to have a significant impact on the reduction of depression and elevation of hope,” said David Crouse, Nanticoke Health Services Board of Directors’ chairman. “The center has been completely redesigned, providing a comfortable place that supports the patients physically, emotionally and spiritually as they battle cancer. There is a great deal of research that shows that the physical environment has a direct impact on the healing process.

Patients often talk about walking into an environment and not only having it feel like home where it’s warm and welcoming but also that it projects a sense of calm and confidence.

“The redesign of the Allen Cancer Center does just that.”

In the redesign, the infusion center was moved from the first floor to the second floor.

“That had to be renovated first to make that happen. That allowed us to take over and renovate all of the first floor,” said Ms. Gardner. “A lot of people moved all over the place during this. And it turned out just fantastic.”

Patient comfort is a primary priority.

Each patient will have their own station area to put their belongings, with plug access to charge cellphones, and individual iPads to watch movies and obtain educational information. “They will all get earbuds to watch whatever they want and not be disturbed,” Ms. Gardner said.

At Ms. Allen’s request, there is a dedicated staff lounge in the infusion area. “This was very important to Barbara,” said Mr. Crouse. “She wanted a comfortable area that would allow the staff to take a moment when they needed it, to step away, that was very close to the patients.”

“We couldn’t be prouder of this beautiful space that provides hope, healing and comfort to so many for many years to come.

“We are so thankful for the Allens and their unwavering support,” said Mr. Crouse. “And, of course, we could not be prouder of the work done by our outstanding team of care providers at the Allen Cancer Center.”

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of patients, because more and more people are getting all these cancer screenings done,” Mr. Rose said. “So, more people are finding out that they have got something. But we’re getting it sooner, so the prognosis is great.”

“And like Barbara said, the bricks and mortar stuff, it’s really beautiful. But really what makes a cancer center is the people that work in there. And, we just have the absolute best people. It’s incredible,” said Mr. Rose, who gave a shout out to what he labels “the very best oncology nursing staff …”

Ms. Allen, too, gave a personal shout out, to her oncologist: Dr. Muhammad Siddique. “Your doctor is extremely important. He is definitely my anchor,” said Ms. Allen. “I have such respect for him.”

“Every day they are busier than they were the day before,” said Mr. Allen. “We believe that we helped to address the need of the future with this facility. It (cancer diagnosis) is a dreadful event. But with a facility like this, hope is a little higher and success is closer for everybody.”

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