Community Hospital working to open cancer center

Chris Thomas
Chris Thomas

Community Hospital has announced staffing additions as well as a proposed partnership as part of efforts to open a cancer treatment center in Grand Junction.

“Our plans are to work together to bring a new, full-service cancer center to our new hospital campus,” said Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital.

Dr. Joanne Virgilio, a medical oncologist; Dr. Ruth Higdon, ab oncology and gynecological surgeon; and Michael Appel, an oncology pharmacist, are expected to join Community Hospital in December to help develop a new cancer treatment program.

“Having the privilege to partner with cancer patients in the Grand Valley over the past 24 years, I am thrilled to join Community Hospital and help them grow their new cancer program,” Virgilio said. “The new cancer program at Community Hospital will allow patients the opportunity to choose where they would like to receive their cancer treatment locally.”

In addition, Community Hospital has joined with the University of Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute to explore opportunities for collaborative efforts in the Grand Valley.

“The new partnership will be an exciting new program for Western Colorado,” Thomas said.

The cancer center has been proposed for the new campus for Community Hospital planned for construction at the Canyon View Medical Plaza near G and 24 roads. Plans have been finalized for a facility that not only will be larger than the existing hospital on 12th Street, but laid out in a far better fashion, Thomas said.

In the interim, the new cancer program will be housed in what previously was the First Choice Surgery Center near Patterson Road and First Street.

Earlier this year, Community Hospital announced a partnership with University of Utah Health Care based in Salt Lake City. The collaboration will offer hospital patients and staff access to resources from what Thomas called one of the best academic medical centers in the world.

The University of Utah has developed similar relationships with other hospitals in Utah as well as Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming as part of its efforts to expand its service area, Thomas said.