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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Whatever happened to Spotsylvania Regional’s cancer center?

Officials at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center were persistent in trying to get state permission to open a cancer center, enduring three rejections before finally getting their permit.

The emergency department entrance at Spotsylvania Regional.

Yet, two years later, the hospital has not started construction of the $6.4 million center, missing state-imposed deadlines along the way. The hospital missed its latest filing with the state, an annual update that was due April 7.

“We are planning to submit it very soon,” said Jeanne Burkett, spokeswoman. “It will go in probably this week.”

The state Health Department requires developers to file annual progress reports and complete their projects within three years of obtaining a certificate of public need or COPN.

Spotsylvania Regional received its COPN in April 2010. Officials told the state then that they wanted to purchase a linear accelerator and provide radiation treatments for cancer patients.  The program was to be housed in the medical office building next door to the hospital. Officials predicted that construction would take about six months, and that the center would open in May 2011.

Burkett said this week that the project is still a priority for the hospital and will open by April 2013.

“Please know that it has not fallen from our priority list,” she said. “It’s still way, way up there. It’s something that is passionately being pursued.”

State regulations say that within one year after receiving a COPN, a developer should submit working drawings for the project and file purchase orders for the needed equipment. By the two-year mark, the developer is supposed to have advertised for construction bids, selected a contractor, awarded a construction contract and started construction.

Officials at Spotsylvania Regional declined to say if they have met those deadlines or why their project has been delayed. The 2011 update that the hospital submitted to the state said that architectural planning has started but did not mention the other milestones. The filing predicted that the center would open in March 2012.

At present, cancer patients who need radiation therapy are treated at one of four local cancer centers.  Mary Washington Healthcare offers radiation therapy at Mary Washington and Stafford hospitals. The Culpeper Regional Hospital and Mid-Rivers Cancer Center in Montross also offer radiation treatments.

(For more on Spotsylvania Regional’s cancer center, see the story soon in the paper. Earlier blog posts on this topic can be found here, here and here.)