Kaleida Health will open a breast care center
next year in Children's Hospital that, although a duplication
of services elsewhere, aims to set itself apart by
significantly shortening the time women wait between diagnosis
The center may instantly make Kaleida Health a player
regionally in breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, a field now
dominated by the Catholic Health System and Roswell Park
And, officials said, it should help Children's Hospital,
which needs new services to fill empty space as the area's
population of young patients declines and more medical care is
provided outside of hospitals.
The venture also adds one more twist to the continual
debate in the Buffalo Niagara region over whether hospitals
should be cooperating instead of competing in some services at
a time of tight funding.
The Catholic Health System earlier this year opened a heart
surgery program, although similar programs are found at
Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center. Meanwhile,
Kaleida Health's new breast care center will be headed by Dr.
Kenneth H. Eckhert Jr., an instrumental part of the Breast
Care Center at the Catholic Health System.
"This is affording me an opportunity to take my life's work
to an unprecedented level," Eckhert said Monday.
Over the years, breast care centers have mushroomed at
hospitals and other facilities with the aim of offering
comprehensive care in one location - everything from
mammography and surgery to counseling and education.
However, Eckhert said his experience has taught him that
women are most interested in a quick time frame between the
moment they suspect or learn of a tumor to the moment they
receive treatment or hear that a lump is benign.
"That can take three to five weeks. The anxiety level is
unbelievable," he said.
Much of the delay is from waiting for the results of tissue
biopsies and scheduling an appointment with a surgeon to talk
about the results and options for treatment, such as a
lumpectomy or mastectomy.
By examining a tissue sample removed during a biopsy under
a microscope, the pathologist can detect subtle differences in
cancer cells that aid physicians in accurately confirming the
diagnosis of cancer. It's a process that usually takes a few
"The pathologist is key," Eck-
hert said. "The person
needs to be on staff and has to have expertise in breast
cancer. You need to be able to get results right away and
avoid repeating biopsies because you suspect the diagnosis is
He said he approached the Catholic Health System about
taking its breast care center at Sisters Hospital "to another
level" by reorganizing the service so that it was able to
offer patients surgery within 48 hours. When the hospital
system could not accommodate him, he said, he turned to
"It's very difficult for me to leave Sisters Hospital, and
it's a bit of a blow to the Catholic Health System. They're
focused on cardiac care right now, and Kaleida saw this as a
way to keep Children's Hospital viable," he said.
"It's more important to me that I accomplish this than
think about what hospital system it is in," he added. "It's a
wonderful way to finish a career."
Eckhert also said he grew up around the corner from
Children's, viewed the facility as a community asset, liked
the idea of playing a role to help it and looked forward to
working in a hospital where he could teach
It's not a simple commitment for Kaleida Health, which is
attempting a turnaround after suffering huge financial losses
since forming in 1998 and has a host of construction projects
and medical services that need attention.
Kaleida consists of five hospitals: Buffalo General,
Millard Fillmore Gates Circle, Millard Fillmore Suburban in
Amherst, Children's and DeGraff Memorial in North Tonawanda.
The new center, which is expected to cost $2 million, will
require the hospital system to remodel the fifth floor of
Children's Hospital and dedicate operating rooms, nurses,
radiology services and a pathologist to the new service.
"The breast center is the start of what I would like to see
here in women's health. It's an area of health care that has
been underserved," said Cynthia Ambres, executive vice
president and chief medical officer at Kaleida Health.
William McGuire, president and chief executive officer of
Kaleida Health, said the project illustrated his
administration's commitment to Children's Hospital. Officials
anticipate the center will open around April 2003.
Eckhert, first director of the Catholic Health System's
breast center when it opened in 1988, is 62 and said he hopes
to continue working until he is 70.
He currently is partner with two other physicians - Drs.
Ronald L. Bauer and Takuma Nemoto - in Breast Health
Associates. They operate the private practice out of offices
in Williamsville and East Aurora and perform their surgery in
the Catholic Health System hospitals.
Eckhert said the physicians last year handled 631 new
breast cancer cases, or about 60 percent of the new cases in
Nemoto, 68, is expected to join Eckhert, but officials
stressed that new surgeons will have to be recruited,
considering the age of the two men. Bauer directs the Catholic
Health System breast care center and is expected to stay
there, according to the hospital network.
"It's a disappointment anytime you lose someone. But Dr.
Bauer is a young physician with a strong practice," said
Dennis McCarthy, spokesman for the Catholic Health System.
"Kaleida seems to be duplicating an existing service," he
said. "But I'm sure they would turn around and point to our
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, except
for nonmelanoma skin cancers, according to the American Cancer
It is estimated that in 2002 about 203,500 new cases of
invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the
U.S. An estimated 1,500 cases will be diagnosed in men.
Nationwide, facilities devoted to breast cancer care are
striving to make their services more coordinated and seamless,
said Eva Sciandra, director of breast health at the society's
"Most biopsies turn out to be negative, fortunately," she
said. "But that doesn't make the waiting time any less