RENO — Three Northern Nevada hospitals along with area provider groups are ganging up on childhood cancer.
The consortium announced Thursday has Renown health, Saint Mary’s, Carson Tahoe Health, Washoe County and the Access to Healthcare Network joining forces to establish the first full-time clinic in Northern Nevada to provide complete services to child cancer patients.
Carson Tahoe Health CEO Ed Epperson said working together is the only way the area can provide full local services.
“There’s just enough volume and need to keep one practitioner busy,” he said.
But Epperson said individually, the hospitals can’t afford the cost.
Sherri Rice of the Access to Healthcare Network said the answer is a new partnership — the Sierra Pediatric Blood and Cancer Consortium — in which the members are going to share the subsidy needed to support the clinic.
“No one entity could make that happen on their own,” she said.
She said historically, northern Nevada only had part time services for child cancer victims, forcing parents to drive to Oakland for treatment.
Jessica Woelfel, said when her daughter Stella was diagnosed with brain cancer at age two, “immediately our life is turned upside down.”
She said the program has had a huge impact on her family.
“For her to be with her brothers, for us to go home and our daughter to sleep in her own bed,” she said. “For me this is a very personal thing. It means everything to be able to treat a child at home.”
Rice said Stella is one of about 85 children in the program, which began operating a week ago.
The clinic is run by Dr. Jill Salo, certified in both general pediatrics and pediatric hematology oncology. It also includes a nurse and front office staff but she said they have the full support of the nearly 20 experts at the Oakland children’s hospital.
“The impact on families is immeasurable,” she said. “Currently this has to be done in Oakland.”
Epperson said the subsidy will be shared between the hospitals based on patient numbers but they don’t specifically have total costs. He said it was important for CTH to be involved because some 20 percent of the young cancer cases were in his service area — Carson, Douglas and the surrounding communities. He said CTH will be hosting monthly clinics in Carson City to enhance access for local and rural families.
He made it clear CTH is in the program to provide needed treatment services locally for the long haul.