Construction of the $8 million Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center is under way. It’s the longtime dream of Dr. Rashid Abdu, whose wife, Joanie, died of breast cancer June 2, 1994.
Site work for the project on the St. Elizabeth Health Center Belmont Avenue campus began about two weeks ago, said Wayne Tennant, vice president of support services for Humility of Mary Health Partners, parent company of St. Elizabeth.
The official target completion date is November, but “we are pushing” to get the project done in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Tennant said.
The project consists of renovation of 12,000 square feet of the former outpatient surgery center that faces Park Avenue; construction of a new entrance to the facility and state-of-the-art digital mammography, MRI and radiology equipment, he said.
In preparing for the construction, Moyer Park, the green-space hillside between the main hospital and the Ambulatory Care Center, which included a fitness track, trees and commemorative rock, will be removed to street level and a parking lot dedicated to the Breast Cancer Center put in its place. Also, a healing garden will be created on the west side of the building with views of it from the interior, Tennant said.
A new fitness track will be created at the St. Elizabeth Family Health Center. The Moyer Park commemorative rock will be placed in the healing garden to be located immediately west of the Breast Cancer Center. Moyer Park was named in honor of Sidney Moyer, who served many years on the St. Elizabeth board of trustees and as chairman from 1973 to 1977, officials said.
The Joanie Abdu Center will provide a single location for patients seeking diagnostic and other services without needing to visit several departments within the main hospital. The interiors will provide for a healing, stress-reducing environment with amenities to assure a comfortable visit, Tennant said.
While the Joanie Abdu Center will not have facilities for surgery and radiation and chemotherapies, they are available on the campus, he said.
The ultimate goal of the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at Humility of Mary Health Partners is to reduce the breast-cancer rate in Mahoning County, which was the highest in the state, hospital officials said when the public portion of the financial campaign for the breast-care cancer center began.
At the time, about $6.1 million of the $8 million had been pledged, including $3 million of HMHP internal funds, and officials said work on the project would not begin until $7 million had been raised.
“Because our poor and under-served, who lack resources or knowledge, seek help late, they die early,” Dr. Abdu said at the time.
Because of HMHP’s mission to care for the poor, these women will get that same high level of care expected by their well-to-do sisters, he said. Dr. Abdu is the former general surgeon and director of surgical education at St. Elizabeth’s.
By bringing all the elements needed for breast- cancer diagnosis and care to one place, it will facilitate a team approach to care involving many disciplines and keeping the patient informed every step of the way, Tennant said.
The project was awarded to several local contractors, including B&B Contractors and Developers, Tri-Area Electric, York Mahoning, Prout Boiler Heating and Welding, Boak and Sons Roofing, Northcoast Fire Protection, Babyak Painting and Ryan Carpet.
The architect is Strollo Architects with Rodney Lamberson as the principal in charge of design, CL Firestone for the electrical engineering and Scheeser Buckley Mayfield for mechanical engineering, Tennant said.