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June 30, 2016

Modern inpatient cancer care unit opening at Cooper University Hospital on July 7

New facility, spacious rooms emphasize patient care at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Cancer Treatment Hospitals
Cancer unit Cooper University Hospital/for PhillyVoice

A new in-patient cancer unit at Cooper University Hospital will open for patients on July 7. It is meant to add another layer to the out-patient MD Anderson Cancer Treatment, which is just across the street and visible from one the new rooms.

The contrast between old and new inpatient cancer care units at Cooper University Hospital is startling.

The old floor has a generic, central casting hospital look: hallways of carts and charts, corridors that confuse and shared double-rooms, though most have just one patient. An undersized waiting room, filled with plastic furnishings.

The new facility, which opens July 7, will welcome patients with all-private rooms on the 5th floor of the Roberts Pavilion. During a walkthrough, the vibe is immediately different: clean, contemporary, calming, spacious, with a logical flow. Think a modern airport lounge with smart TVs and a pull-out for visitors to sleep over. The waiting room is comfortable and roomy.

It's all part of an effort to elevate cancer care.

Related story: MD Anderson rated top cancer hospital in the nation

Cooper is the only hospital in South Jersey with a dedicated inpatient oncology unit. Retaining New Jersey patients nearer to their home was part of the plan, according to Dr. Generosa Grana, director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.

The other part, Grana said, was to “give the same experience here as patients in Houston,” the site MD Anderson’s 700-bed, flagship hospital, and emulate the quality of the care.

“We want to bring them the same level of expertise,” she added.

The new facility fills a vacant floor in the pavilion. It’s meant as a complement to the free-standing outpatient MD Anderson center across the street.

Grana, who has spent her 22-year career at Cooper, said the plan was always to begin with the outpatient building, add the updated inpatient facility, then add bone-marrow transplant capabilities to the inpatient center in a few years.

A bone marrow treatment center requires “very complex” planning, which will require staffing with physicians, adding related multi-disciplinary medical personnel and navigating a meticulous accreditation process.

Planning for the new oncology facility took three years.

Incorporating open space to accommodate medical teams and visitors was part of the planning, but so was adding touches of serene beauty, which have “a healing element,” said Grana.

Adrienne Kirby, Cooper's president and CEO, told a gathering of medical personnel and media Tuesday afternoon that “thousands” of New Jersey residents have stayed in-state to get care. Patient numbers were up nearly 10 percent in 2015, she said.

Kirby added the new space will allow the “care, humanity and skill” of Cooper personnel to better assist patients.

Registered nurse Miriam Toledano was at work on the old oncology unit and missed the opening ceremony, but she’s already seen the new space and can’t wait for the move.

She and her colleagues have done a scavenger hunt on the new floor to better acquaint them with the facility.

“We could tell a lot of thought went into everything. Its layout is much easier and convenient,” said Toledano, who has worked the old unit for a year.

She thinks families who can now overnight with a loved one will be happier in the new unit.

PhillyVoice's Executive Director Lexie Norcross sits on the Cooper Foundation Board of Trustees. Her father, George E. Norcross III is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Health System.

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