[Photo courtesy of Moab Regional Hospital]

Moab residents with cancer have more options for at-home care now, as Moab Regional Hospital has established a new partnership with the Colorado-based affiliate of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Grand Valley Oncology, which is part of Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, is bringing hematologist and oncologist Dr. Jonathan King to Moab to increase patients’ access to a specialist in town.

“A cancer diagnosis is never convenient,” King said. “I’m happy to be able to at least make this part, the logistics, easier for patients.”

Like many of its specialty services, Moab Regional Hospital has provided oncology services for years through a partnering physician.

Dr. Joanne Virgilio, who previously worked in the oncology department at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, held clinics in Moab for the past four years. During that time, she said, she developed a great love for the community and respect for its medical professionals.

“I felt like it was a privilege to serve the Moab community when I did,” Virgilio said. “The hospital staff are not only capable, but also warm and inviting. I love that (Moab Regional Hospital) has a small-town feel with a very high level of professionalism; it made it very easy and fun to come out.”

Virgilio and three of her colleagues went on to establish Grand Valley Oncology in 2014 to provide specialty oncology services to Colorado’s Western Slope community, leading to the latest partnership with Moab’s hospital.

“Ensuring cancer patients have access to high-quality care close to home is extremely important as they navigate their treatment options,” Community Hospital President and CEO Chris Thomas said.

St. Mary’s Hospital, meanwhile, will continue its existing partnership that Virgilio started. Dr. Virginia Tjan-Wettstein is now the visiting oncology and hematology specialist from St. Mary’s Cancer Center.

Community members who participated in the 2016 Moab Community Health Survey reported cancer as the second-most serious health concern in Moab, after substance abuse. That’s a 13 percent increase in the level of concern that respondents had in 2013.

In the same survey, 10 percent of respondents reported having received oncology services in the last three years. This partnership is part of addressing the community’s concerns with cancer, Moab Regional Hospital Director of Community Relations and Program Development Sarah Shea said.

“We have a number of patients who are going through treatment and have to spend a lot of time traveling to Salt Lake and Grand Junction,” Shea said. “We wanted to strengthen support right here in Moab.”

Bill Carter, an infusions specialist and nurse at Moab Regional Hospital, said he is glad to see the new partnership start to ease burdens for his patients, who have expressed to him the negative impact on their families, health and finances of having to travel constantly to receive care.

A Moab native, Carter said one of his primary goals returning to medical service in a rural community was to increase convenience of care for cancer patients.

“Now, for people who are used to traveling long distances, maybe two out of three times they can get treatment at home,” he said. “It’s really nice to see that. It’s a huge issue for people already in a lot of discomfort.”

Another benefit of the new partnership between Grand Valley Oncology and Moab Regional Hospital is its facilitation of a more seamless connection for patients who receive care from Moab Regional Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Shea said.

The Utah- and Colorado-based oncology centers created a partnership about 18 months ago to facilitate collaboration and seamless care for patients receiving services from both entities, King said.

With many Moab-based patients receiving care in Salt Lake City, Moab Regional Hospital has already been working to improve communication with the cancer institute, while expanding services that are available in Moab, including lab work and chemotherapy transfusions.

“(With Grand Valley Oncology), we now have an even better system for supporting that important connection (with the institute),” Shea said.

Moab Regional Hospital is currently working to update its strategic plan to reflect the findings of its 2016 Community Health Assessment, Shea said. Providing community education programs and supporting other means of cancer prevention will be a big part of that, she said.

A cancer diagnosis is never convenient. I’m happy to be able to at least help make this part, the logistics, easier for patients.

New partnership brings Grand Valley Oncology services to Moab Regional

Patients can schedule appointments at Moab Regional Hospital’s Multi-Specialty Clinic with King by calling Grand Valley Oncology at 970-254-3180. The schedule availability varies from month to month.