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Colchester's new radiotherapy centre has finishing touches ready for first patient in March
MILES of eletrical cabling snake through the plant room. Tonnes of concrete encase the frame.
Colchester’s new state-of-the-art radiotherapy centre is tangibly close to completion.
The vision for the £24 million centre - the biggest development at Colchester General Hospital since it opened in 1985 - was born decades ago.
And on March 31, the first patient will be treated there.
The centre is hive of activity. A small army of 130 workmen - including electricians, plasterers, joiners and decorators - work frenetically to get the centre finished by the deadline.
Work on the building started 15 months ago. The shell has now been completed and work is now in full swing inside.
On the ground floor, five bunkers have been created to house linear accelerators which dispense radiotherapy.
Huge steel doors will contain the radioactive treatments along with the concrete walls which are up to three metres thick in places.
Four new linear accelerators, costing £1.5 million each, will arrive on December 14.
There are also waiting, counselling and changing rooms as well as public areas.
The centre also has an orthovoltage suite for radiation therapy for superficial tumors along with a suite for brachytherapy where radioactive rods are implanted for internal cancer treatment.
The vast plant room, the size of a ballroom, is the nerve centre of the building.
The miles of wiring have been tested as they are installed along with the crucial ventilation and computer systems.
Sean Purtill, contracts manager with Interserve, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust’s partner on the project, said: “There has been massive progress over the past eight weeks.
“The centre needs to be operational on March 31 and we are confident will be meet that deadline.”
The centre has been built between the main hospital site and Gainsborough wing and creates a link between the two.
Nick Chatten, special projects director for the Trust, said: “It means patients on wards in the Gainsborough wing will be able to go directly to the main hopsital for X rays and the like without having to go into the public areas.
“It should be far more discreet for patients.”
For Mr Chatten, this is the culmination of years of planning and work.
When the centre opens in March, it will be one of the leading cancer centres in the country delivering 25,000 treatments to nearly 2,000 patients from north and mid Essex each year.
But medicine advances move on incessantly.
So what provision has been taken to ensure Colchester’s radiotherapy centre can move too?
Mr Chatten said the fifth bunker has been built to allow another linear accelerator to be installed as the population - and the need for cancer treatments - grows.
He added: “The roof has been built so we can put two more floors on part of it and one more on another if we need to.
“It could be we want to provide a new chemotherapy department there in the future as well as other holistic therapy.
“We also have two CT scanning rooms but only one scanner at the moment.
“We have built this building with a view to the future.”
FUNDRAISING, donations and legacy have raised nearly £200,000 for the new centre.
Runners taking part in the Royal Parks half marathon in London in 2011, 2012 and 2013 raised £16,820.
About 400 runners took part in the Santa Fun Run in 2011 raising £18,949 and £19,063 was raised by 500 runners last year.
About 200 cyclists took part in the Essex Castle Bike Ride this year to raise £8,047 and other individual donations and volunteer-organised events have raised a further £12,478.
The appeal fund is now just £46,000 short of its target of £237,000.
Caroline Bates, fundraising manager for Colchester Hospitals Charity, said: “The money will be used to make the atmosphere at the radiotherapy centre really special.
“We want patients to feel they are being cared for and how people feel is so important to their recovery.”
Caroline is hoping about 600 people will don the famous red Santa suits to take part in the run next month.
Participants are asked to raise £25 each on top of the £10 entry fee. There are reductions for children and teams.
The run will be held from 10am on Sunday December 8 in Castle Park, Colchester. For more information, go to www.santafunrun.eventbrite.co.uk.
RETIRED consultant oncologist Dr Phil Murray is a man who not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.
In the past two years, he has thrown himself out of a plane, run two half marathons, completed a cycle ride and dressed up as Father Christmas to take part in a Santa Run.
His exploits are all to raise funds for the new state-of-the art radiotherapy centre at Colchester General Hospital.
Dr Murray, who has worked for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, was involved in planning the new department - including lobbying people to support it.
He said: “I have a big commitment to it.
“Essex County Hospital is quite cramped now and referals have increased quite dramatically in recent years.
“Our linear accelerators are getting towards the end of their lives.
“At the new centre we will have four state-of-the-art machines. For a time, the new centre will be one of the best centres in UK and possibly Europe.
“I am excited about it. We will be joining the main hospital site and have other services adjacent to us which is desirable.”
However, while the centre’s £24 million price tag may sound a lot, once the structure and equipment is paid for, there is no money left for extras.
“Patients do better in their treatments if they are in a good enviroment and staff feel uplifted.
“We are trying to create a good environment.
“We are talking about chairs which are more luxurious, even things like artwork make a huge difference to patient comfort.”
To pay for these extras, Dr Murray has twice run in the Royal Parks half marathon, completed a parachute jump, taken part in two Santa runs and has cajouled family and friends to join him in his fundraising exploits.
Together, they have raised more than £10,000.
Dr Murray will again don the red suit to take part in this year’s Santa Run at Castle Park.
He said: “I’ll be there again this year.”
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