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Karmanos Asks for 1 Year to Start Work on Expansion

July 31, 2008

By Patricia Anstett, Detroit Free Press

Jul. 31–The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, under a state deadline to break ground for six new operating rooms, has asked Michigan for a 1-year extension to begin the project.

Karmanos officials met with officials at the Michigan Department of Community Health on July 17 in Lansing, the day before its deadline to proceed with construction or lose state approval, said Linda Remington, director of marketing and communications at the cancer institute.

Department officials suggested the institute seek a 1-year extension, and it applied for one last week, Remington said.

If the extension is approved, construction would have to begin by July 18, 2009, though the institute hopes the work will start in the spring, she said.

Remington said the project wasn’t delayed because of money problems.

“We have been working with” the Detroit Medical Center, “looking to make use of our combined resources,” Remington said, referring to its independent relationship with its partner, the DMC. “It’s not a matter of finances. We need to finalize these plans.”

Karmanos reluctantly agreed to expand its program on the DMC’s midtown campus after a Wayne County Circuit Court judge last year halted the cancer institute’s proposed purchase of Detroit Riverview Hospital.

Dr. Jack Ruckdeschel, president and chief executive of Karmanos, said at the time that the institute’s leaders preferred buying Riverview to expanding on the DMC campus because Riverview would provide more space at half the cost, about $40 million to $45 million, compared to the $90 million needed to build a cancer hospital on the medical center campus.

Initially, the cancer institute planned a $95-million hospital on the DMC campus. But Michigan’s failing economy slowed fund-raising efforts and forced Karmanos to scale back to a $47-million plan, which Ruckdeschel dubbed “ORs on stilts,” a reference to the institute’s plan to build the ORs (operating rooms) in an otherwise vacant building, to be completed later.

The Karmanos Institute’s cancer hospital now occupies several floors of Harper University Hospital and its adjacent Wertz Cancer Center. The new building would occupy what is now a valet parking lot on John R, next to the Wertz Center.

Contact PATRICIA ANSTETT at 313-222-5021 or panstett@freepress.com.

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