Detroit's new cancer facility aims to spark economic growth

by Maria Catellucci

Source: Modern Healthcare

As part of a larger effort to foster economic growth in Detroit, Henry Ford Health System plans to build a $110 million comprehensive cancer facility in the city by summer 2018. 

The opening of the 144,000 square foot cancer center, which is expected to break ground in spring 2016, is part of Henry Ford Health System's larger $500 million expansion plan. The health system will develop commercial real estate, homes and dedicate green space within the next decade on 300 acres of land in Detroit. 

“I think (this cancer center) will really be a tipping point for others to venture in and partner with us on commercial development,” said Nancy Schlichting, Henry Ford Health System CEO. 

Schlichting adds that cancer patients often receive long-term care and therefore patients and families would be in the area for a while. 

Those families are increasingly dependent on cancer treatment as Michigan's population ages, Schlichting said. Cancer patients treated at Henry Ford have increased by 31% since 2007. 

According to 2014 data from the U.S. Census, 15.4% of Michigan's population is over 65. The national average is 14.5%.

“A lot of people stay in Michigan when they retire,” Schlichting said. “Not everybody goes to the South."

The cancer center was also developed as a way to consolidate specialty cancer treatment under one roof, Schlichting said. Cancer treatment is currently dispersed across Henry Ford Hospital. At the cancer center, each floor will be dedicated to the treatment of a specific cancer.

The center will be adjacent to Henry Ford Hospital, where some cancer treatments and cancer surgeries will continue, Schlichting said. 

An emergency care center will also be included in the cancer facility so patients with continual care are in the same facility as their specialty cancer physicians. 

“When you have ongoing care and a team of specialist providing that care you want them to be the ones that help you in an urgent situation,” said Schlichting. “In an environment like that you can provide more healing.” 

The center will also include on-site exercise and nutrition planning, dedicated personal space and extended hours of care.

The facility will be less than three miles from Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, the only center in Michigan currently dedicated to the treatment of cancer. 

When asked if competition may be a concern, Schlichting said she is not worried because Henry Ford has operated successfully for a century.

“We've been competing for 100 years and we're certainly very capable of competing,” said Schlichting.

Karmanos Cancer Institute declined to comment on the competition. 

Devon Herrick, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, said it is becoming increasingly common for states to approve multiple nearby centers because it encourages competition and keeps prices low. 

Karmanos had been the only cancer center in Michigan, which allowed it to raise prices at will, Herrick said. 

“I don't think two cancer centers would be too many especially being for the retirees,” Herrick said. “The retirees can negotiate better deals.”