Mercy-Clinton launches campaign for new cancer-treating equipment

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

CLINTON — Mercy Medical Center has launched a $2 million capital campaign — “A Thousand Reasons Why” — to replace one of its essential pieces of cancer-treating equipment.

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Mercy-Clinton hopes to purchase this radiation machine to better serve its cancer patients.

The medical center needs a new linear accelerator, which provides radiation treatments. This machine targets and destroys cancer cells, breaking up their DNA so they cannot reproduce, said Darla Olson, a certified medical dosimetrist at Mercy-Clinton, in the campaign’s official video. Destroyed cancer cells are replaced by normal cells, thus shrinking tumors. Mercy-Clinton provided 3,120 radiation treatments in 2016.

Olson reports that the existing machine is 12 years old; the life expectancy for such a machine is 10-12 years. Compounding the urgency for a new machine is the fact that the service contract has expired. Olson said breakdowns usually result in the machine being out of commission for one to two days with repairs costing anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000.

The radiation oncology department is affiliated with University of Iowa Healthcare. The new machine will allow Mercy-Clinton to continue to provide radiation treatments in Clinton with even more efficiency. The new machine can cut treatment times by about half, down to 3-7 minutes from 10-20 minutes. The new machine is also more efficient at targeting cells, especially those surrounding critical structures such as the spinal cord, Olson said.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $8 million, which includes the purchase of the new machine and construction of a vault to house the machine, said Julie Dunn, Mercy-Clinton’s Healthcare Foundation and marketing director. So far, more than $1 million in gifts and pledges have been raised toward the $2 million campaign goal. Of the money raised, the Clinton County Development Association has donated $500,000. Another $150,000 has been pledged by Mercy Auxiliary over the next three years. Dunn noted that community support has been “generous. We’ve been very surprised and pleased with the response we are getting.” Mercy-Clinton plans to cover the remaining cost of roughly $6 million from capital funds. Mercy-Clinton hopes to break ground on the project in late 2018 or early 2019, Dunn said. To make a pledge or donation, call Mercy Healthcare Foundation at (563) 244-3535.

“It’s something that has to be done,” Dunn said. “It definitely needs to be replaced so we can continue to offer this service in the Clinton area.”

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