Legislative funding paves way for cancer center on the grounds of Middlesboro ARH Hospital

Published 3:35 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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By Jay Compton

Representatives from Appalachian Regional Healthcare gathered with local and state officials Friday for a special ceremony during which they announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art cancer center on the grounds of Middlesboro ARH Hospital.

The $15 million project is made possible by a $12 million appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly.
The center will offer residents of Bell and surrounding counties an opportunity to receive cancer treatment close to home instead of traveling an hour or more to larger cities.

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A cancer center in Middlesboro has long been a dream of ARH President and CEO Hollie Harris, a cervical cancer survivor who lost her father to cancer when she was 15 years old.

“Cancer has shaped my entire life and is probably, ultimately, the reason I went into healthcare,” Harris said. “When my dad was sick, I saw the chemotherapy, the radiation and all the things that go along with having cancer. I saw the process of going through cancer with a loved one. It’s an extremely difficult time for both patients and their families. It’s a time when patients often don’t feel like traveling and shouldn’t have to travel long distances for treatment.

“Patients deserve local access to the best medical care possible, and we are excited to provide this long overdue service to another ARH community.”

Upon completion, the center will feature a team of providers who specialize in medical, radiation and surgical oncology. They will work alongside a group of oncology nurses, social workers, pathologists and radiologists to treat a variety of illnesses including blood disorders, cancer, chronic leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and myelodysplasia.
Middlesboro ARH Hospital CEO Michael Slusher, himself a cancer survivor, knows firsthand the benefits the facility will provide to area residents.

“As a cancer patient myself, I understand the significant value of having a full-service cancer center in Middlesboro and Bell County,” he said. “Many patients don’t have the financial means nor the physical strength to make multiple trips out of the region for months at a time to receive chemo or radiation therapy. “This makes the fight much easier for us.”

Kentucky Sen. Johnnie L. Turner, a driving force behind the senate appropriation, said he was excited to assist in a project that will help improve the lives of eastern Kentucky residents.

“People shouldn’t have to travel far from home to receive care,” said Turner, who represents Bell, Floyd, Harlan and Knott counties. “This is very important for ARH and for all of our residents and I’m so excited that we’re able to do this.

“It’s a true blessing to be able to help the people in this area.”

In addition to Sen. Turner, the event included comments from ARH VP of External Affairs Rocky Massey; Middlesboro ARH CEO Michael Slusher; ARH COO Paul Betz; ARH patient Mark Terry; Middlesboro Mayor Boone Bowling; Bell County Judge/Executive Albey Brock; and 87th District State Representative Adam Bowling.