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New oncology and infusion center opens at Bitterroot Health

Bitterroot Health
Posted at 9:21 AM, May 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-10 12:10:45-04

HAMILTON - It used to be difficult to get oncology and infusion treatments in the Bitterroot Valley.

Bitterroot Health didn't have an oncology unit and would do infusions only one day a week out of their ER. And until mid-April of this year, the closest infusion and oncology center to Hamilton was in Missoula.

“If you look at the research a lot of times in rural areas, there aren’t things like cancer care available to patients. And if they’re diagnosed and have to make the decision to travel far for their treatment, or if it’s an economic [burden], or they just don’t have the means to get to the larger cities for the care, a lot of people decide not to have any care at all. That it certainly not what we want see here to our valley and our patients that we take care of," explained Kathy Padilla, who's been a nurse for 43 years and is the Chief Nursing Officer at Bitterroot Health.

Now, Hamilton has a state-of-the-art infusion and cancer treatment facility that opened last month and operates at least five days a week.

This was a multi-year process and it has finally come to fruition. The treatment facility was first conceptualized in 2018 but soon after, COVID-19 put a halt to any progress. But as the pandemic began to subside, Bitterroot Health partnered with Intermountain Health and started up again in full force.

“We traveled and we looked at six, seven different facilities and we really did take the best of the best out of each of the facilities," said Senior Director of Patient Care Services Jennifer Busch.

The new facility will see 60 patients a month for services ranging from infusions to prescription needs. But it's not just about providing medical care, but keeping patients comfortable while they're receiving it.

That's where the La-Z-Boys come in. “They’re very, very comfortable for long days if you have to sit in a chair for long period of time. They have massage, they have heat capabilities, they recline," Busch said." We found that when we traveled from facility to facility that some organizations had one or two of these same chairs and patients were actually changing their appointments just to get the chair.”

Infusion Facility
There are multiple areas for treatment: private rooms, singular seats, or group seating areas

The new facility was entirely funded by the community; whether it was dollars from bake sales or large sums from donations, the whole project was a group effort. Even now, 45 volunteers from the Hospital Auxiliary donate their time and service.

“We have so much help from the community. People have contacted me asking what they can do, how they can help. And it’s been such a blessing to work with the community," shared Hospital Auxiliary President Peggy Doerfler.

The facility is open and anyone in the Bitterroot Valley seeking oncology or infusions can now receive treatment close to home at Bitterroot Health.