Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center to reopen

Great Falls Tribune

by Briana Wipf

After closing in 2012, Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center is slated to reopen sometime before May 31, according to a joint news release from Northern Montana Health Care of Havre and Benefis Health System in Great Falls.

“Since the center was closed in 2012, it has been the goal of the Northern Montana Hospital board of trustees and Benefis Health System to find a solution to bring cancer care back to the Hi-Line,” said Julie Mariani, vice president of business operations at Northern Montana Hospital.

Benefis oncologist Dr. Donald Berdeaux will see patients in Havre one day per week and will work with NMH medical staff to coordinate care for patients. Telemedicine services also will be available, according to the release.

An estimated five to seven jobs will be added with the center’s opening, ranigng from nurses to receptionists, said Karen Ogden, chief communications officer for Benefis.

“The center will offer general medical oncology services, including chemotherapy, as well as patient consultations and followups, support groups and a Cancer Resource Center with educational materials for cancer patients and their loved ones,” Ogden said.

Having opened in August 2008, Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center closed in February 2012 “because of regulatory and financial challenges,” the release said. A new operating model makes the center a department of Northern Montana Hospital. A six-member operating committee, with three members each representing Benefis and NMH, will oversee the venture.

The center hopes to offer radiation oncology services, pending passage of a bill co-sponsored by Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., which would delay enforcement of a federal mandate that a supervisory practitioner be available when a patient receives radiation.

Tester’s and Moran’s bill also asks Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to implement a policy more workable for small cancer care centers.

“While we’re optimistic the legislation will pass, we can’t predict that with any certainty. If it doesn’t pass, we will simply continue to offer medical oncology services. If it does pass, we will begin working immediately to return radiation oncology services to the Hi-Line,” Ogden said.

“We’re confident that this joint venture has positioned the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center to serve patients well into the future,” said Joe LoDuca, chief administrative officer of Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute in Great Falls.