COLUMBIA — Tuesday was a victory for all past, present and future cancer patients in the state of Missouri.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder signed House Bill 2019 on Tuesday, which allots nearly $31.2 million in funds from Gov. Matt Blunt’s Lewis and Clark Discovery Fund to assist in needed construction at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and Medical Education Center at MU.
Kinder also designated about $15 million to go to the University of Missouri-Kansas City for a new state-of-the-art pharmacy and nursing building.
“In 2006, we began a bold initiative to transform the face of higher education throughout the state of Missouri,” Kinder told a crowd inside the University Hospital lobby Tuesday afternoon. “Thanks to the state legislature, we are now able to provide needed improvements and renovations to medical facilities at the University of Missouri and UMKC.”
For the past 70 years, the Ellis Fischel’s outpatient services have been situated in an old building separate from University Hospital. Ellis Fischel Medical Director Bill Caldwell said that this has been an inconvenience for patients and staff who have had to travel back and forth between the cancer center and the hospital. The new funding, he said, will allow Ellis Fischel’s outpatient services to relocate adjacent to the hospital.
In 2004, the Missouri General Assembly designated Ellis Fischel Cancer Center as Missouri’s official state cancer center. Despite discussions, it has not yet been decided what will happen to the building that currently houses the cancer center.
Kinder said the funding from the Lewis and Clark Discovery Fund will help Ellis Fischel deliver high-quality, comprehensive cancer treatment in a new state-of-the-art facility and will increase the center’s capacity to accommodate a projected increase in new cancer patients. He said it will also increase the potential for improved outcomes through timely screening, diagnoses and treatments.
The funding will also enable improved communication between physician specialists at University Hospital and Ellis Fischel, as well as enhance the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain leading physicians and clinical staff. Kinder said he hopes these improvements will advance Ellis Fischel’s goal of becoming one of the most innovative cancer treatment facilities in the country.
“It is my hope that with these improvements Ellis Fischel will soon be designated as a comprehensive cancer treatment center by the National Cancer Institute,” Kinder said.
Newly-appointed UM System President Gary Forsee said on Tuesday that Ellis Fischel has a long and proud history of serving Missourians as the first state cancer center west of the Mississippi River.
“Ellis Fischel and the UMKC Pharmacy and Nursing Building are the university’s two remaining projects from the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, an innovative proposal by Governor Matt Blunt,” Forsee said.
The two projects, he said, will help the university continue its service to the state.
The Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative is a partnership between the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority and the state. Authorized through legislation and support by lawmakers, the initiative reinvests a state asset to generate $335 million to strengthen Missouri’s colleges and universities for students.
Caldwell said that Ellis Fischel is like a “safety blanket” for patients.
“When they walk through the doors of Ellis Fischel they feel much more at peace than they had beforehand,” he said.
Caldwell said the new building is only going to add to this sense of peace by uniting all cancer patients with each other and the staff.