Making Quality Cancer Care Available Close to Home

October 2, 2012

Physicians gather at Mercy Hospital
Fort Smith for tumor conference.

FORT SMITH, Ark. – Every Monday at noon a group of surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, palliative care physicians and other cancer specialists pack into a conference room at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith.  They quickly grab a lunch plate and get down to work. Getting this brain trust together for even an hour is not easy but it is important. They’re all here for tumor conference – a time when physicians bring individual cancer cases to the group and collaborate on the best treatment option.

“While a patient may only see one physician, they’re actually getting the benefit of a whole room of experienced doctors working together to ensure the very best care for them,” said Dr. Tony Flippin, Mercy Clinic oncologist.  “We’re able to share ideas and experiences that help all of our patients.”

This team approach to cancer care is one of the reasons Mercy Hospital Fort Smith is just one of four Arkansas hospitals and the only one in this area to earn a Three-Year Accreditation with Commendation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons.

According to the CoC, just about 30 percent of US hospitals hold this accreditation. However, this 30 percent of hospitals is responsible for the diagnosis and/or treatment of approximately 80 percent of all newly-diagnosed cancer patients each year. 

“When you’re in the fight of your life, having to travel far from home for treatment can be incredibly difficult,” said Ryan Gehrig, Mercy Fort Smith president. “Mercy is committed to having quality cancer care right here in the River Valley. We are proud that this accreditation is only given to the facilities that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of cancer care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of performance.”

Receiving care at a CoC-accredited cancer program ensures a patient has access to:

  • comprehensive care, including a range of state-of-the-art services and equipment

  • a multi-specialty team coordinating the best treatment options

  • access to cancer-related information, education and support

  • access to clinical research and cancer research protocols for cancer patients

  • a cancer registry that collects data on type and stage of cancers and treatment results and offers lifelong patient follow-up

  • ongoing monitoring and improvement of care

  • quality care close to home

Each year about 700 patients undergo cancer treatment at Mercy Fort Smith. The hospital has been providing cancer care to adult patients since 1981. It first earned CoC accreditation in 1983 and has successfully kept up that accreditation since then.

The three other CoC accredited facilities in Arkansas are Mercy Hospital Hot Springs, the Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in Fayetteville and the Central Arkansas Veterans’ Health Care System in Little Rock.

Mercy Fort Smith includes the 373-bed Mercy Hospital as well as critical access hospitals in Paris, Waldron and Ozark. It also includes Mercy Clinic with more than 90 providers in 19 specialties across the region. Mercy Fort Smith is part of Mercy – the nation’s sixth largest Catholic health care system.

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