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Dayton signs Woodwinds cancer treatment-center bill

Gov. Mark Dayton's signature paved the way for a new cancer treatment center in Woodbury.

Woodwinds Health Campus will be a direct beneficiary of a bill - signed into law Monday by Dayton - that will eventually lift a moratorium on radiation treatment centers in the Twin Cities.

"We're very pleased that this legislation's been passed and signed," said Roger Green, vice president of strategy, policy, marketing and communications at HealthEast Care System. "It will make it possible to bring radiation therapy services to the Woodbury community."

The Woodbury hospital for years had sought to move a sister hospital's chemotherapy equipment, but was blocked by limits included in the moratorium, which it supported. The moratorium halted construction and the relocation of radiation therapy equipment in the 14-county metro area; the moratorium was put into place just as Minnesota Oncology was about to construct its own cancer treatment facility just down the street from Woodwinds.

The new law specifically allows Woodwinds a reprieve under the moratorium, which won't be lifted until 2014.

Woodwinds can now act on plans to move radiation equipment from St. John's Hospital in Maplewood to the Woodbury location. The two hospitals are owned by the same parent organization, HealthEast Care System.

Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, originally championed the bill in the Senate but did not vote on it; his wife Lynne is medical director at Woodwinds.

The new law represents a compromise between Minnesota Radiation Oncology and Minnesota Oncology. While the moratorium is lifted in 2014, the new law replaces it with strict limits on the growth of future radiation therapy centers.

"The compromise achieved this session seems to address the issues of all the various constituents while continuing to protect the role of making services available for people not able to pay," Green said.

The criteria call for each radiation therapy facility to have a hospital affiliation, requires doctors to disclose any financial interests they may have in radiation therapy facilities and require no new centers to be built with seven miles of an existing radiation oncology facility.

The new law also spends $137,000 from the state's health care access fund to study radiation therapy facilities' capacity.

Before the new Woodwinds facility can begin, the hospital must construct a lead-lined vault with an approximately $1 million price tag. Green said no time frame is in place for completion of the project, but noted that it must be completed by 2014, when the new criteria take hold.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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