In a unanimous vote in May, New Haven’s Board of Aldermen cleared the way for the construction of a new cancer facility at Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) for patient care and clinical research. With groundbreaking for the 14-story, $450 million structure scheduled for this fall, the facility will open its doors to patients at the end of 2009.
The vote followed a marathon negotiating session in March in which the city, the hospital, a labor union and community groups resolved numerous issues surrounding the Yale Cancer Center (YCC). Under the agreement the city agreed to approve needed zoning changes; the hospital increased its offer of benefits to the community; and the hospital and the Service Employees International Union agreed to a nine-month organizing period for hospital workers, to be followed by a secret-ballot election. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called the deal a “win-win-win” for all parties.
For the hospital and medical school, the deal means the chance to continue improvements in cancer treatment and research.
“The facility will allow us to meet our mission of providing exceptional care to the most acutely ill patients we serve,” said Marna P. Borgstrom, M.P.H. ’79, CEO and president of YNHH. Richard L. Edelson, M.D. ’70, professor of dermatology and director of YCC, agreed. “This is a huge step forward for the Yale Cancer Center’s capacity to provide truly state-of-the-art care,” he said.
The hundreds of physicians, nurses, clinical researchers and laboratory technicians involved in cancer treatment at Yale are now dispersed throughout the hospital and medical school. The new building on Park Street will bring them together under one roof, with immediate benefits for patients, said José Costa, M.D., professor of pathology and deputy director of the YCC. “Our current facilities are the result of a cancer center that has been in existence for 30 years, and with the passage of time they have grown and have been remodeled to adapt to progress in clinical medicine, but in a less-than-ideal fashion,” Costa said. “The new building benefits from a clean, forward-looking design.”
One of the biggest advantages of the unified facility will be easier access to state-of-the-art care for patients and families facing a challenging illness, Borgstrom said.
“Cancer care is multidisciplinary, involving important input from several specialties,” Edelson said. “Bringing collaborative physicians together for face-to-face discussions—to put their heads together to discuss a challenging case when it is fresh in their minds, rather than simply reading one another’s notes in the chart—is simply the best way to do it.”
Although it is still three years from its scheduled completion date, Edelson said the project has already had an impact. Thanks in part to the plans for a new building, Edward Chu, M.D., the cancer center’s chief of medical oncology and director of clinical research, was able to recruit 11 top clinical investigators to Yale in just two years. “We have to have the best doctors that we can possibly have, and we can do a much better job attracting them if we have the very best facilities,” Edelson said.
With that new expertise and a new building on the way, Yale will be able to direct more clinical trials of treatments discovered at the School of Medicine, Edelson said. For Costa, the building’s advancement of both care and research will mark a new era in the YCC’s 30-year history. “We want to be practicing the medicine of tomorrow,” said Costa. “Let’s not remodel the house; let’s build a new house that is ideally suited not just for today, but for where we think we will be in 10 years.”