Yale, HHC proton cancer treatment center back on track, work to begin in Wallingford early next year

WALLINGFORD — A partnership between Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare on a $73 million proton cancer treatment center will break ground early next year, according to a statement from both providers.

The proposed 25,000-square-foot Connecticut Proton Therapy Center will be built at 932 Northrop Road and use highly targeted radiological proton therapy rather than conventional radiation to treat cancer.

The partnership includes Proton International, which will provide construction, equipment and operational functions for the center. 

 According to state filings, it will be the first such treatment center in the state and one of only a few in the Northeast. The entities applied to the state for a Certificate of Need in 2019 and received approval in 2022.

“We are on track to break ground next year and scheduled to begin treating patients in 2026,” stated representatives from both healthcare networks through a spokeswoman. “Hartford HealthCare, Yale New Haven Health and Proton International have invested significantly in acquisition of the land, design and engineering work on the facility. We remain fully committed to the Connecticut Proton Therapy Center.”

Like many projects nationwide, the Proton Center was delayed by the pandemic, the statement continued. 

“We are proud and excited to bring this innovative and life-changing therapy to the state, creating a destination for state-of-the art cancer care,” according to the statement.

Covid’s impact on the health care industry has also stalled progress on Yale New Haven Health’s plans to convert a former Macy’s anchor store at the Meriden Mall into a medical treatment center.

A Yale spokesman confirmed in a statement last month that the mall project was stalled due to the challenges of the pandemic, with updates expected in the near future. 

Hospitals and ambulatory care centers lost significant numbers of workers in the early months of the pandemic and staffing didn’t recover until the beginnning of 2021, according to Steve Lanza, associate professor in residence at the UConn Department of Economics.

“Hospitals definitely took a hit during the pandemic in that they were ground zero for treating Covid patients and doctors and nurses were overworked, overextended (often working outside their areas of expertise,) and mentally and physically exhausted, Lanza said.

The pandemic has exposed hospitals to an array of challenges at the clinical, operational, and financial levels, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The American Hospital Association estimated in 2022 that drug expenses increased by 36.9% and medical supply expenses by 20.6% from pre-pandemic times.

“The high cost and shortages of medical supplies, coupled with unprecedented inflation, have led to higher hospital expenses,” according to NIH. “Moreover, the pandemic has forced hospitals to invest extra resources in training hospital staff on new protocols, securing a large volume of personal protective equipment, and expanding or reconfiguring their medical and intensive care units to accommodate the surge of COVID-19 patients. In addition to increased spending on training, supplies, and space reconfiguration.

A recent report estimates that labor expenses increased by 37% per patient from 2019 to March 2022 primarily because of a significant increase in contract labor expenses, according to NIH.

But the site selection and green light from the state was considered a win for Wallingford. 

Joseph Mirra, chairman of Wallingford’s Economic Development Commission, said he had previously heard the partnership had to make adjustments to its budget during the lengthy application process.

“The last update I finally got was that it had been taken care of and they are breaking ground early next year,” Mirra said. “It’s going to be a great addition to the town, the community and the state. it’s a great faciltiy and resource for patients. I only wish the state would move on projects like this a little faster.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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