The Lower Keys Cancer Center is moving - and "transitioning" to a new group of managers.
The center, which is currently run by oncologist employees of the Lower Keys Medical Center (LKMC), will be moving next door to its current location in the Cantana Medical Building on North Roosevelt Boulevard. The new location has, for the past 11 years, been the home of 21st Century Oncology, which claims to be "the largest global, physician-led provider of Integrated Cancer Care services."
More importantly, control over the Cancer Center is passing into the hands of a group composed of 21st Century Oncology, the LKMC, and the Rural Health Network.
"We're going to be transitioning patients from one building over to the next," said LKMC spokesman Randy Detrick. "They're taking over the center, basically. I can't tell you any more than that."
Mercy Hiller, who has served as an administrator for 21st Century Oncology/The Marta A. Gonzalez Center, since it opened in Key West, claimed the move was taking place because "the physicians' contract was not renewed."
"The clinic is going to remain open and there is an interim physician coming," Hiller said. "It's going to be run by the Rural Health Network, in the future, when all the contracts are in place. Our role at 21st Century is to make sure that the cancer patients in our community continue to receive treatment and continuity of care. We're going to facilitate everything that needs to happen."
The announcement was made to LKMC staff by way of an email from Tammy L. Coll, interim director of Key West HMA Physician Management, LLC.
In the email, Coll said that "Board Certified Internal Medicine and Oncology/Hermatology specialist Carlos M. Castillo, M.D., has joined the Lower Keys Cancer Center. Castillo comes to Key West from 21st Oncology in Jacksonville, where he has been the regional consultant in oncology and hermatology for 14 years."
Coll didn't return a phone call requesting comment. Neither did Rural Health Network CEO Dan Smith.
However, Visiting Nurse Association/Hospice of the Florida Keys CEO Jody Gross said Friday that she was upbeat about the move.
"When I first moved here, about 30 years ago, there was nowhere for cancer patients to get treatment," said Gross, who holds a master's in nursing, and specializes in oncology. "My understanding that is that the chemotherapy at the Lower Keys Cancer Center will be moved next door to where they're doing radiation therapy, so both treatments will be available in the same building. Instead of being next door, it's going to be, like upstairs, downstairs. I'm excited that they're going to strengthen the center by doing this, and I'm glad that I live here, because I know that someday, if I need this kind of care, it'll be available to me as well."