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April 15, 2021

Fauquier Health cancer center will hit pause

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The Fauquier Health Center for Cancer Care dedication in February 2020.
Cancer treatment is a priority. That’s why we built a $12.5-million center . . . . But, having one provider 24/7 just wasn’t manageable in the long term.
— Fauquier Health CEO Chad Melton
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Contributing Journalist
Just more than a year after it opened, the Fauquier Health Center for Cancer Care in Warrenton will undergo major changes in its operation.

With the departure of its lone hematologist/oncologist on May 7, the center temporarily will cease chemotherapy and other cancer treatment.

Patients got the news in a letter dated April 6.

But, Northern Virginia’s largest cancer practice will begin seeing patients at the center in July, according to Fauquier Health officials.

Although final legal review of the affiliation continued Wednesday afternoon, Fairfax-based Virginia Cancer Specialists significantly will expand the services available to patients here, Fauquier Health CEO Chad Melton said.

“This will be much better for everybody in the long term,” Mr. Melton said. “It’s a much bigger organization.

“This is only going to continue to happen across the industry. It makes sense from a continuity standpoint.”

VCS has 32 physicians and 139 employees in 12 offices from Gainesville to Alexandria. The practice participates in clinical trials and research that will expand the range of potential care in Warrenton.

Mr. Melton praised the work of Dr. Raj Pal Manchandani, who will leave Fauquier Health in two weeks.

“Dr. Manchandani started the same year (2017) I did,” the CEO said. “We actively recruited a long time to try to find him a partner and some depth.

“Cancer treatment is a priority. That’s why we built a $12.5-million center . . . .

“But, having one provider 24/7 just wasn’t manageable in the long term.”

Patient volume and “market share,” which Mr. Melton put at “10 to 15 percent,” compounded the challenges.

The 29 cancer patients receiving treatment at the Warrenton center will need to go elsewhere until July.

“In the interim time period, patients may be seen at the Lake Manassas office” that VCS operates near Gainesville, the letter to Fauquier Health patients says. “Please, tell the VCS scheduler that you are a patient of Dr. Manchandani and Fauquier Health, and that you want to make an appointment to establish care with Virginia Cancer Specialists.

“VCS has daily openings to prioritize our patients to ensure a smooth transitional period.”

Mr. Melton declined to provide details of the affiliation with CVS, such as whether the practice will rent space in the Warrenton center, until finalization of the documents.

But, he said Fauquier Health has $10 million earmarked for establishing radiation therapy in Warrenton. The hospital has applied for a Certificate of Public Need from the Virginia Department of Health, which would allow the plan to move ahead.

Ultimately, the cancer center should have a 60-percent market share to justify the investment, according to Mr. Melton. “That’s why we invest in partnerships.”

He noted that competition remains intense, particularly with the Novant UVA Health hospitals in Culpeper, Haymarket and Manassas. Charlottesville-based UVA Health, which owns 40 percent of those hospitals, plans to complete acquisition of them in July.

In a rapidly-changing industry, Mr. Melton said the affiliation with VCS makes sense, allowing a relatively-small hospital — far removed others that Tennessee-based LifePoint Health owns — to expand services.

“We tried to do it on our own,” he said of expanding cancer services. “Our leadership team and Dr. Manchandani worked very hard. We talked to just about everybody.

“It comes down to what can we do locally, and where do we need help.”

VCS physicians already have privileges at the Warrenton hospital, Mr. Melton explained.

“Our goal for everyone is to have continuity of care, so there won’t be a gap,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fauquier Health will continue to provide infusion therapy other than chemo. But, the infusion center will move from the 25,000-square-foot cancer center on West Shirley Avenue back to the adjacent hospital.

The hospital has offered continued to employment to all 11 cancer center staff members, Mr. Melton said.

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.
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