The healthcare industry remains a major economic driver in rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed communities. The Golden LEAF Foundation supports the healthcare industry by funding projects that directly lead to the creation of new jobs and increased access to healthcare services.
In April 2020, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded Southeastern Regional Medical Center (UNC Health Southeastern) $500,000 through its Community-Based Grants Initiative to support construction costs for a more than $8 million expansion project at the Gibson Cancer Center. Golden LEAF leveraged funding from the hospital, The Cannon Foundation, Inc., and the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which helped the hospital to purchase equipment necessary to detect and treat cancer, including a second linear accelerator and a positron emission tomography, or PET scanner, to increase access to care and help create jobs.
The positron emission tomography, or PET, scanner creates three dimensional images of the body which are used when planning or monitoring cancer treatment. The premium PET/CT technology helps Gibson Cancer Center providers detect disease and better understand disease progression for accurate and early treatment decisions. A PET scanner located at the Gibson Cancer Center was needed for more effective patient treatment.
The new equipment has helped grow the capacity to see more patients. As patient volume continues to grow over the next two years, 12 new jobs will be added. In addition, 10 new rotation positions will be added to existing education and training programs for medical students, medical residents, allied health, and nursing students.
On August 21, 2021, patients at Gibson Cancer Center were treated using the new linear accelerator. On October 12, 2021, the center treated its first patients using the fixed PET/CT scanner.
“We were the only county in the state that had an open-heart program and an oncology program with no access to a fixed PET scanner,” said Steve Elgin, Administrative Director for Gibson Cancer Center, Southeastern Health Heart and Vascular, and Chief Process Design Officer at UNC Health Southeastern. “We had access one day a week to a mobile PET scanner, which because of many variables, could cause treatment to be delayed by one or two weeks. Now, with a fixed PET scanner available five days a week, we can serve patients more quickly.”
The new linear accelerator that was purchased is the most advanced on the market and provides additional capacity for the Gibson Cancer Center to provide new services with treating even smaller lesions than they could with their other model.
“This linear accelerator allows treatment of smaller lesions with less impact on surrounding tissues, providing our patients with the best possible options for the treatment of their disease,” said Lori Dove, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UNC Health Southeastern. “The second accelerator prevents patients from experiencing delays in care when repairs or work is required on one of the pieces of equipment, and, as we all know, timely treatment is important to the outcomes of our patients.”
The Gibson Cancer Center is a free-standing center with all the technology needed to offer a full range of cancer treatment services in one location, serving Robeson, Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland, Bladen, and Columbus counties.
“The Golden LEAF Foundation funding has allowed us to provide continued access for our community to the latest technology,” said Dove, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UNC Health Southeastern. “We appreciate and are excited about this most recent collaboration to bring the latest technology to Robeson County and the surrounding region. Golden LEAF has long been an outstanding partner for UNC Health Southeastern and the Robeson County communities that we serve.”
For more information about the Gibson Cancer Center, visit https://www.srmc.org/locations/profile/gibson-cancer-center/.