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Nurses union presses St Charles over plans for $90 million Redmond cancer center: Who will staff it?

But hospital system says facility is needed to serve residents in outlying areas

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The union that represents Oregon nurses is is raising concerns about St. Charles Health System's plans for a new $90 million cancer center on its Redmond campus, expressing doubt that it can adequately staff the facility, considering its current staffing and financial issues.

But the hospital system said the new Redmond facility will benefit cancer patients in areas to the north who now must travel to Bend for treatment.

St. Charles said the funds were secured through bonds in the fall of 2020 which can only be used for construction. 

At present, more than 40% of patients treated at the St. Charles Cancer Center in Bend come from the Redmond, Madras, Prineville and other rural areas. During some treatments, they have to travel more than 50 miles several times a week. 

For them, the planned facility is likely welcome news, but the Oregon Nurses Association is questioning whether enough staff will be available when the doors open.  

"Investing in buildings is fairly short-sighted," ONA Communications Manager Kevin Mealy said Wednesday. "What we want to invest in is the bedside. That's where care actually happens. That's where people get healthy and home safely."

"We can't meet those basic needs if it becomes a frivolous expense that does more than put the cart before the horse," he added. "It raises serious questions about St. Charles priorities, both in the short and long term."

But St. Charles officials defended their plans, saying it's a very needed facility.

Mari Shay, administrative director of the Cancer Center in Bend, said Wednesday, "Our priorities right here right now are to build a comprehensive cancer center in Redmond, expand the services we have in Bend  and to meet the needs of patients in Redmond and our northern counties. There's a lot of loss in the oncology and cancer space throughout Oregon. 

Dr. Linyee Chang, medical director of the Bend facility, said, "An issue for some of our patients is that the distance, the inconvenience is overwhelming for them. So some of our patients, unfortunately, choose not to have cancer treatments."

 The new facility will be at the corner of Canal Boulevard and Kingwood Avenue. Building design is underway, with a goal of breaking ground by the end of this year and opening in 2025. 

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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