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Radiation oncology center underway in Elko

Rob Sabo
rsabo@nnbw.biz

RBS Evolution, a provider of cancer treatment centers in rural and underserved communities, last week broke ground on a new radiation oncology center at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital in Elko.

The center, which is expected to come online in the early second quarter of 2015, is the first of its kind for the northeastern Nevada market. Cancer patients currently must drive to Reno or Salt Lake City for radiation and other cancer treatments, which are sometimes administered up to five times a week for several weeks at a time.

Executives at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital had long wanted to bring radiation and oncology services closer to home, says Hope Cripps, director of business development for NNRH, and they jumped at the offer by RBSE to develop the center. NNRH will lease the land for the center to RBS Evolution, which will own and manage the facility.



“Currently patients have to go to Salt Lake or Reno, and both drives are over three hours and that creates hardship on those patients working full time or for their families,” Cripps says. “Having this center reduces that hardship. It may not eliminate it entirely, that depends on the type of treatments, but it definitely will be impactful in reducing the need to travel and will allow patients to be treated closer to home.”

Dr. Douglas Debenham will provide care to patients of Northeaster Nevada Radiation Oncology Center. Debenham originally hails from Salt Lake City but has family ties to Elko and already relocated to the area. Debenham earned his medical degree from University of Nevada School of Medicine.



“My hope is that by adding a local cancer center, patients will be able to stay closer to home for all of their medical needs,” Debenham says.

Having the center on the campus of NNRH also allows patients easy access to the hospital’s imaging department and other services. Its’ the third such facility for RBS Evolution, which owns and manages two cancer centers in Alaska that opened in 2013.

Denise Gerlach, vice president of marketing for RBSE, says her company will split construction costs for the building with Debenham, who put northeastern Nevada on the company’s radar.

“He’s from that area and knew there was a need,” Gerlach says. “We both were looking at the same kind of niche market. Our strategy is to serve patients that aren’t being served or are having a hard time being served.”

RBE Evolution estimates between 275 and 300 patients each year travel out of the Elko area to seek radiological treatments. The center is predicted to open in April barring harsh winter conditions that stall construction — and weather could play a crucial role in building the thick concrete vault where radiation treatments are administered, Gerlach says. Construction crews can’t pour concrete for the vault in extremely cold weather since the concrete won’t cure properly.

“We are excited and we can’t wait to get started,” she says.

The center features an Electa Snyergy radiation treatment system that allows 3D imaging of treatment areas so physicians can more precisely target tumors with radiation beams.