[VIDEO] Clinton, Iowa – First Patient Treated in MercyOne’s New Linear Accelerator

CLINTON, IOWA — MercyOne Clinton Medical Center’s new linear accelerator is up and running, with the new machine used to treat its first patient earlier this month.

MercyOne identified the need to upgrade to a new linear accelerator about five years ago, MercyOne Foundation Executive Director Julie Dunn said. MercyOne launched a $2 million campaign to raise funds and combined those dollars with additional capital funds to cover the linear accelerator’s full cost. In all, the investment came in around $6.4 million, Dunn said.

MercyOne also received a $500,000 gaming grant from the Clinton County Development Association, which spurred the campaign to go forward raising an additional $1.9 million, Dunn said.

“We closed the campaign in November of 2018 and then many people pledged over the course of three to five years,” Dunn said. “So we’re still collecting on our pledges. But we have celebrated the ability to raise that money and have gone forward and now so excited that this venture is open.”

Construction was completed in October and the first treatment was Jan. 12, MercyOne representatives confirmed.

Darla Olson, a dosimetrist in the Radiology Oncology Center, noted the linear accelerator MercyOne previously used delivered radiation and the patients did well. But the new linear accelerator‘s advanced imaging technology allows MercyOne to take treatment to the next level, Olson believes.

The new machine will allow MercyOne to treat patients who previously were not able to receive treatment locally, Olson said. It also will significantly reduce the amount of time the patient needs to be on the table for treatment, Olson added.

The majority of patients treated with the previous linear accelerator were skin, lung, breast or prostate cancer patients, Olson said. MercyOne purchased the equipment to do more advanced treatment on small lung cancers, Olson said.

Cancer can occur anywhere in the body, she stressed. Olson said that while the machine is “really unlimited“ in what it can treat, staff members need to be trained to provide expanded services using it, Olson said.

“We have additional trainings coming up for the respiratory motion part and then we have also additional followup for the linear accelerator,” Olson said. “So it’s kind of ongoing training. Not on Day 1 would you treat all those types of patients because whatever we want to do we want to do it safely. So we need time to learn those techniques and for our peers to help us so that we can do it safely is first and foremost.”

The linear accelerator allows MercyOne to utilize the latest technology to treat patients, MercyOne Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Amy Berentes said. She noted the need for patients to go to radiation treatment up to five days a week.

“When patients have to travel five days a week for treatment, it’s a real inconvenience,“ Berentes said. “And obviously, we’re looking at not only the treatment as being the most advanced but also that we’re delivering it within the most convenient spot for them locally and continuing with the highest quality of life for them. So we feel like that’s really important.“

The typical patient receiving radiation therapy receives treatment for two to eight weeks, Olson added.

Prior to any patient being treated with the machine, the linear accelerator was blessed by Diocese of Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Berentes said.

“I think that’s really important and special to patients, as many of them rely on their faith through this cancer journey,” Berentes said. “We think it’s a pretty sacred space and in accordance with that, we’ve done that blessing.”

Source: The Clinton Herald