New cancer treatment center breaks ground in Hawaii

HILO — A new cancer treatment center in Hawaii has broken ground after the state legislature allocated $6.5 million for the project earlier this year.

A group of healthcare officials and lawmakers gathered Thursday to mark the beginning of construction of the new building, which will expand the Hawaii Health System Corporation’s East Hawaii Health Clinic and is expected to be completed by 2022.

The two-story facility of nearly 20,000 square feet (1,858 square meters) will be located adjacent to the existing clinic and across the street from the Hilo Medical Center. It will provide expanded oncology care, primary care and other specialty services, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“We’ve been on a long journey to get more healthcare here,” said Dan Brinkman, the Hawaii Health System Corporation’s East Hawaii Regional CEO. “Our thing is great health care close to home, and you have to have a good facility to do that. You have to have space. As with many things here, it takes a long time to get that together and get support.”

Democratic state Rep. Mark Nakashima said a visit to the facility more than a year ago showed him why the center needed to be expanded to meet demand for specialty care.

Jerry Gray, the chairman of the East Hawaii Region Board of Directors, said the expansion would help prevent residents from having to fly off the island for specific treatment.

“I think the COVID thing has brought home the importance of having access to services on the island, because anyone that’s traveled knows it’s difficult,” Gray said. “This will just be better for our kupuna and for our keiki and all of us that make the Big Island home.”

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