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Lutz Cancer Center ready to open doors

OPENING MONDAY — Letters designating the entrance for the new Lutz Cancer Center are installed Thursday at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont.

FAIRMONT — The Lutz Cancer Center will open its doors Monday at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, culminating two years of planning, construction and preparation for a $1.7 million facility that will double the size of the existing treatment space.

A public open house and tours will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, with a ribbon cutting and program at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Amrit Singh, chairman of the oncology department, and Dr. James Hebl, vice president for Mayo’s southwest region, will speak. Family members of Peter and Elsa Lutz, namesakes of the Lutz Wing Nursing Home that originally occupied the cancer center site, also plan to attend.

“We’re super excited about maintaining the Lutz name,” said Amy Long, administrator at Fairmont Mayo.

She and Dr. Marie Morris, medical director at Fairmont Mayo, recalled the meetings and conversations that led to the eventual closing of the nursing home in December 2017 when only half of the 40-bed facility was occupied.

“There was a lot of conversations, a lot of dialogue. We had patient and family stakeholder meetings,” Long said. “The Minnesota Department of Human Services had very strict requirements on the timeline to close.”

Morris said the process spanned about nine months and involved social workers, county services, an ombudsman and local officials.

“We had the resources to help walk families through the process, and it went very well in spite of the difficult decision to close the nursing home was for us to make,” she said.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one,” Long said.

She credited Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center in Fairmont for its efforts to become a new home to many of the Lutz Wing residents. “I don’t think we can undersell that by any means. That community partnership and engagement with Lakeview as part of the process was invaluable, and we still work closely with them.”

Tracy Culbertson, nurse manager of oncology for Mayo’s southwest region, has been supervising the preparations for Monday’s opening. Plans are to have all equipment moved in by tonight.

“We’re doubling the size so a lot of the equipment is new,” she said. “We went from five infusion chairs and one bed to 10 infusion chairs and two beds. We now have a nutrition area which did not exist before. Exam rooms are doubled from two to four. We also have a procedure room for lab draws and bone marrow biopsies.”

Instead of having the infusion chairs lined up in a row as they are now, the chairs are now paired up in pods of two, with a privacy curtain to separate them, if desired. The pods are separated by partial walls topped with opaque glass so the area feels open while still offering privacy. The new cancer center also has a consultation room, education room, conference room, staff locker space and a break room.

In spite of all the state-of-the art equipment in the facility, the showpiece is the new entry area and lobby. Nine new parking stalls designated for cancer center patients have been installed by the entryway on the east corner of the hospital building. The lobby features a check-in desk, tables and chairs, a large TV atop a cozy fireplace and what Culbertson calls “a beautiful coffee machine” where patients and family members can get a cup of Starbucks brew, a chai latte or hot chocolate.

“It will be so much nicer for families than what we have now,” Morris said.

“The other aspect of this is increasing access so patients can receive these services locally,” Long said. “We have been limited by space with how many patients we could see in a day.”

Culbertson said the existing oncology area would see about 10 patients per day when the rotating oncologist was in the center three or four days a week. If space was not available, patients were referred to Rochester Mayo, Sioux Falls or Mankato for treatment.

“We were very limited because there’s only so many chairs and so many hours in a day,” Morris said.

After the new full-time oncology nurse practitioner hired by Fairmont Mayo starts this fall, physicians will reduce their visits to twice per week, but the number of patients the facility can treat will increase.

“We will go from 40 patients a week to 70,” Culbertson said.

In addition to the full-time oncology nurse practitioner, a full-time registered nurse will be added, bringing the cancer center staff up to seven registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses, one patient access staff person and a part-time social worker.

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