Central Valley

Manteca cancer center planned

Valley Cancer Medical Group of Modesto for several years has maintained a full-time office for patients in Manteca and the surrounding area.

Now, the medical group sees Manteca as the ideal location for a cancer treatment center serving residents of southern San Joaquin County.

It plans to start construction this summer on the 32,000-square-foot Valley Cancer Center at Spreckels Avenue and Norman Drive in Spreckels business park.

The center will serve patients coming from Ripon, Escalon, Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy, cities with a combined population approaching 200,000. Cancer patients from those cities have to make frequent trips to Stockton or Modesto for treatment.

"Treating them in the community makes sense for the patient," said Dr. Amarjit Dhaliwal, a partner in the medical group. "I think the timing is right for this. The need is there."

The project costing more than $8 million is another sign the health care sector is weathering the economic downturn.

Doctors Hospital of Manteca commissioned a study last year showing a need for cancer treatment services in southern San Joaquin County, Dhaliwal said.

He said the treatment center will work financially without national health care reform. But the reforms won't hurt. As the laws take effect in the next four years, more valley residents will have health insurance and the rules will prevent insurance companies from dropping cancer patients, Dhaliwal said.

With the Manteca center, patients won't have the strain of driving to different locations for chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Plans for the center include a 20,000-square-foot building with chemotherapy suites and a vault housing linear accelerator equipment for dosing tumors with radiation.

Two other buildings will include an imaging center, administration and medical office space for lease.

Despite the credit crunch of the past two years, financing appears to be readily available, Dhaliwal said.

"I am getting phone calls from bankers," he said, adding that medical equipment suppliers are offering reasonable rates. "The people who make these expensive machines know the market. They know the hospital and community is behind this project."

Valley Cancer Medical Group will staff the center with a radiation oncologist, two radiation therapists, and a physicist to run the sophisticated equipment. About 30 employees will work at the complex, including nurses, medical assistants and office workers.

Dhaliwal and his partner, Dr. Robert Levy, will continue with their practices in Modesto.

The group is applying for city permits with hopes of starting construction in July. The Manteca center could open in December and, within a year, could be serving 150 patients a week.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.