A community letter by Jean McPheeters
Making a gratitude list at this time each year reminds me of the good things in life that can get overlooked in each day’s distractions. High on my gratitude list this year is enjoying good health for me, my family and having quality health care close to home. I am thankful for the time and talent invested over many years in building a health-care system that is ready to provide care when my family and my neighbors need it.
The importance of having the high-quality care Cayuga Health System provides 24-7 every day was underscored this past spring when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our region. In some cases, lives depended on having local care because a trip to a distant hospital could have had life ending consequences. Having sophisticated medical care close to home is near the top of my gratitude list. Also getting high places on this year’s list are five thank-yous for Cayuga Health achievements that deserve an extra helping of gratitude.
Thank You #1. Two days after the first case of COVID-19 arrived in Tompkins County, Cayuga Health and the county’s health department began a collaboration to screen the public for the virus. The innovative partnership launched the Cayuga Health Sampling Center that has been the only mass testing program in our region, and it is essential for reducing the spread of COVID-19. The drive-through Sampling Center at the Shops at Ithaca Mall each weekday allows residents of Tompkins and surrounding counties to get COVID tests close to their homes and avoid a long out-of-town trip.
Thank You #2. Getting COVID test results rapidly so infected patients can be treated and quarantined prevents the spread of the virus. The medical laboratory at Cayuga Medical Center delivers next-day test results because of decisions made locally to upgrade the facility and develop a skilled lab staff equipped with state-of-the art diagnostic technology. When the pandemic arrived in our region, the lab was prepared to launch a COVID diagnostic program on a scale that few upstate hospitals could match. Nearly 500,000 patient samples have been tested at the Lab for COVID-19 from mid-March to early November.
Thank You #3. The Cayuga Cancer Center at Cayuga Medical Center began treating patients this fall with a new radiotherapy system. The advanced technology delivers more powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint accuracy and better precision than previous generations of medical linear accelerators. About two-thirds of local cancer patients have radiation therapy as part of their treatment. The new system reduces many treatment sessions to less than two minutes that had taken 10 to 30 minutes with the earlier system. The improved radiotherapy system at the Cancer Center combined with its collaboration with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo allows more patients to get the care they need at Cayuga Medical Center.
Thank You #4. Robotic surgery programs for joint replacement and general surgeries offer surgeons high precision to the procedures done at Cayuga Medical Center. The DaVinci Surgical System for abdominal surgeries and the Navio System used for knee joint replacements each had rapid growth in 2020 during their first full year in service. The advanced robotic technology provides and extra margin of safety to patients and often result in less post-operative pain and faster recoveries.
Thank You #5. Years of planning at Cayuga Health are improving health-care access in the City of Ithaca and developing the city’s economy. The Carpenter Park Medical Office Building opening in early 2021 brings a wide range of patient-care services supported by the extensive hospital care Cayuga Medical Center provides into the City of Ithaca. The 65,000-square-foot facility will have a walk-in clinic, laboratory services, physician offices, a primary care clinic for medically underserved neighborhoods, diagnostic imaging, an outpatient clinic and a comprehensive women’s health center.
The Medical Office Building is part of a 10-acre project along Route 13 that also brings more affordable housing, market-rate residential units and retail space to the city. The Cayuga Health project is improving community health cares, expanding the city’s tax base, creating local jobs and building more housing with this major investment.
I wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season.
Jean McPheeters is a member of the Cayuga Health board of directors and a past president and CEO of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.