Martha’s Vineyard Hospital physicians and medical staffers met last Friday with leadership from the recently-announced Coordinated Cancer Care Program, a collaboration between MVH and Massachusetts General Hospital, to discuss details and goals of the new agreement, which increases oncological care access to Vineyarders by providing chemotherapy treatments on-Island. The program also includes Nantucket Cottage Hospital.

The Coordinated Cancer Care Program was announced earlier this month, and began this week at the hospital. The former emergency room in the hospital’s old section has been converted into a six-bed oncology unit, to be serviced by MGH nurse practitioner Jane Kelly, who will be on Martha’s Vineyard three days a week and Nantucket twice per week, and a rotating staff of oncologists. Ms. Kelly also will help coordinate treatment at MGH for Vineyard patients; some services, such as radiation, will still need to take place at the larger facility.

Dr. Richard T. Penson, clinical director of medical gynecological oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, anchors the staff of oncologists. Dr. Penson presented a brief overview of Coordinated Cancer Care during two meetings on Friday.

The overarching goal of the program, Dr. Penson said, is “world-class local care.” In addition to providing a means for Islanders to receive treatment without the expense and time commitment of traveling to Boston, the agreement also facilitates care by implementing a computerized chemotherapy treatment ordering system that physicians can access remotely.

Another goal, Dr. Penson said, is to bring oncological subspeciality expertise to the hospital. Five physicians join him on the rotation at the hospital: lung specialist Christopher G. (Gerry) Azzoli, lymphoma specialists Jeffrey Barnes and Marcia Browne (Dr. Browne will also
work with Nantucket breast cancer patients), melanoma and head/neck specialist Donald Lawrence, and breast cancer specialist Dr. Lydia Schapira. The oncologists will be on Martha’s Vineyard two days per month, on Tuesdays and Fridays, for a total of four four-hour sessions per month.

Dr. Penson said he and the staff hoped to create a “seamless transition” for patients currently in treatment at Mass General to shift into the Coordinated Cancer Care Program.

“We’re a new program,” he said. “We really want to be a success here. “

“We’ve been looking at doing this for a long time,” Carol Bardwell, chief executive nurse at MVH told the Gazette. “Everyone wants to keep people home for this type of treatment.”