BERLIN – Officials with Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) celebrated the start of construction on the John J. “Jack” Burbage, Jr. Regional Cancer Care Center with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.
The 18,000-square-foot facility, which will be located on the corner of Old Ocean City Boulevard and Route 113 in front of Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, will provide the community with a variety of cancer care and blood disorder needs, including chemotherapy treatments, diagnostic radiology services and other amenities.
Though the center won’t open until next spring and construction will not start for another month, AGH officials and community leaders this week honored the men and women who supported the new center, including Burbage himself.
Burbage, co-chair of AGH’s Campaign for the Future and CEO of Blue Water Development Corporation, has close ties to the center’s cause. His own mother died of bone cancer when Burbage was 11 years old.
Lou Taylor, chair of the hospital’s board of trustees, said the center’s name will be a reflection of the kindness and generosity displayed by Burbage.
“There are very few who are as generous and giving as this man,” said Taylor, who is also superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools. “He wears his heart on his sleeve, he helps others, he often calls many of us in this community to see what he can do for those who are in need, and I’ve experienced that firsthand in my profession with Jack.”
Burbage thanked everyone for their support in making the cancer care center a reality and urged those in attendance to contribute to the facility.
“Every one of us needs to be a part of this center and the reason is that all of us have been touched by cancer,” he said. “Our friends, people we know in some way or form, and it’s affected their life.”
In addition to raising funds for a women’s health center and improvements to the hospital’s impatient care area, emergency department and surgical facilities, Burbage said AGH’s Campaign for the Future is also raising funds for the new cancer center, which has secured more than $3 million of the $10 million needed in pledges.
Michelle Fager, co-chair of the Campaign for the Future, thanked the community for supporting the foundation and its goals.
“It has been so rewarding and a great pleasure to work with each and every one of you through the foundation,” she said. “This community’s unwavering dedication and financial support for our local hospital, and most especially this capital campaign project, never ceases to amaze me.”
Michael Franklin, president and CEO of AGH, said the current cancer care center has grown exponentially since its start within the hospital. Though the program is now located in the adjacent James G. Barrett Medical Building, he said the hospital’s growing number of cancer patients demonstrates the need for larger facility.
“If we look at our registry back in 2010 when we started this, we had cared for about 150 cancer patients,” he said. “This past year in 2016, we are up to 250 to 300 patients.”
Franklin explained the importance of a new cancer center and told attendees that Worcester County’s death rate from cancer remains 10 percent higher than both the state and nation. By establishing a community-based cancer care center, he said families will have access to quality services.
“With the advanced technology that includes the latest in chemotherapy and radiation therapy, advanced diagnostic services like PET imaging, and with advanced relationships with academic facilities like our unique telemedicine relationship with the University of Maryland to bring those physicians to our community, cancer deaths in Worcester County and Sussex County will no longer be 10 percent higher than other places,” he said.
Franklin applauded the hard work of community members as the hospital prepares for the construction of its new facility.
“Today we are breaking ground on this vision and in less than a year many of our family members, friends and neighbors will realize the immense importance of this vision,” he said. “Because of our supportive and generous community because of the vision and leadership of people like Jack Burbage, because of those who have served on our board of trustees and dedicated themselves to the best possible care for our community, people who face a diagnosis of cancer will have the resources they need right here at the crossroads of health care in our community.”