The Adventist Health Sonora Health Pavilion and Diana J. White Cancer Institute bustled with activity this week as patients began to receive care.
The patients, some with canes, walkers or guided by medical care professionals, walked through the first-floor hallway to the centers for diagnostic imaging and radiation oncology.
Nurses in light blue scrubs passed through the illuminated ground-floor hallway, and by the luminescent, purple donor and scripture atrium at the entryway.
A uniformed security officer waited by a player piano in the main lobby and provided information to patients with a front-desk attendant.
The parking lot to the $36 million, 64,000 square-foot, three-floor building at 900 Mono Way in Sonora, brimmed with cars.
“It’s great to see some life in the building and see patients come through the doors,” Adventist Health Sonora public information officer Karen O’Brien said. “It’s taken a little while, but it’s exciting to see everyone finally coming in.”
The Adventist Health Sonora Health Pavilion and Diana J. White Cancer Institute was licensed by the California Department of Public Health on Aug. 2 to begin medical operations and accept patients, but the transition from the main Adventist Health Sonora campus, just a few hundred yards away across Greenley Road, has been gradual.
The move was phased, O’Brien said, as an intentional effort to transfer individual departments from the main campus into the new facility, but keep the departments operational during the move.
The first department to move was diagnostic imaging, which began the week of Aug. 13, she said. That was followed by the opening of primary care medical offices on the second floor on Aug. 20, and sports medicine and rehabilitation of Aug. 27, she said. On Wednesday the facility opened up to radiation oncology patents on the first floor.
The third floor cancer center, which features 12 private chemotherapy and immunotherapy infusion bays along a glass window and an outdoor patio terrace, will likely not be open to patients for at least another month.
The facility has applied for licensing from the California State Board of Pharmacy. The application could not be made until the facility was licensed by the CDPH, she said.
O’Brien said the process would likely be “a whole lot faster,” and it was expected that the license should be approved by the end of September.
The oncology pharmacy on the third floor fills prescriptions for medications used in the infusion centers, she added.
Mammography is also not open on the first floor yet, O’Brien said, and is still held at the Outpatient Imaging Center on Covey Circle.
The facility is expected to serve 500 patients a day when it is fully operational. A groundbreaking for the facility was held in June 2015, and a ribbon-cutting and open house was held at the end of April of this year.
Planning is underway to fill the vacancies in the main campus created by the transition, O’Brien said.
In April, much the facility was already staffed with state-of-the-art resources and technology.
On the first floor, behind a thick concrete vault, is the flagship instrument of the facility, the $2.1 million dollar stereotactic body radiation therapy device, the linear accelerator.
O’Brien previously described the “Elekta Infinity” linear accelerator, which is bordered by leminscate signs and glows in the colors of the spectrum, as the most state-of-the-art cancer treatment device in Tuolumne, Calaveras and Mariposa counties.
A linear accelerator pinpoints the exact location of a tumor and delivers precise doses of radiation to protect healthy surrounding tissue.
Elsewhere on the first floor are the diagnostic imaging services, a 64-slice CT scanner to provide more-detailed images of the body, and a PET/CT scanner, which illuminates cancer cells.
The outpatient lab and X-Ray services once held on Covey Circle have also moved to the new facility. O’Brien said blood draw work, now available for walk-ins, is available on the second floor and is no longer offered at the Outpatient Imaging Center on Covey Circle. Walk-in X-ray services are available on the first floor.
The cancer center will be staffed by oncology and hematology specialists Mussa Banisadre, M.D.; Yousef Khelfa. M.D.; Abdol Mojab, M.D.; and radiation oncology specialist Mihoko Fujita, M.D.
The director of the cancer center will be Shane Tipton, a family nurse practitioner and physician assistant with a masters degree in science.