Eleven years after it opened, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Commack outpatient facility is running out of room.
Officials of the Manhattan-based hospital are planning a 37,275-square-foot expansion -- increasing the Commack facility by 71 percent -- to meet what they say is a growing need for cancer treatment services on Long Island.
"We've been pretty squeezed for space. We've turned bathrooms and closets into offices for staff," said Victor Ribaudo, executive director of the cancer center's regional care network, which includes locations in Hauppauge and Rockville Centre. "Demand is outstripping our space."
Sloan-Kettering representatives last week asked the Smithtown Town board to lift restrictions on building height from 35 feet to 55 feet, parking from 283 spaces to 404 spaces, maximum floor area from 65,000 to 90,000 square feet, and sewage and hazardous material disposal that were imposed when the center opened in 2002.
The board reserved its decision, but Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he believes the request will be approved. "I think it's fine," he said. "It doesn't encumber anyone."
The expansion would house more rooms for surgical consultations, chemotherapy infusion bays -- or chairs where patients receive treatment -- and a second MRI and second CT scan device, Ribaudo said. It would also allow the center to expand physical therapy and radiology services, he said. The addition would create about 40 jobs when it opens, expected to be in the summer of 2016, he said.
The number of visits in Commack has increased about 55 percent -- from 17,500 a year in 2006 to a projected 27,200 this year, Ribaudo said. He attributed the growth to factors such as an increase in cases of cancer and expanded surgical consultation services allowing patients to meet with surgeons in Commack before having surgery in Manhattan.
In Suffolk County, new cancer cases are expected to grow from an annual average of 8,774 between 2005 and 2009 to more than 11,000 by 2025, Ribaudo said, adding that the Commack center treats patients with common cancer types such as of the breast, lung, colon, head and neck. "As the average age of the population increases, you're going to see more incidences of cancer," he said.
Councilman Kevin Malloy said he supports the expansion.
"I think we need to have the facilities close at hand to treat the residents," he said. "If you can receive adequate treatment close to home, I think that's a great comfort to the patient and the family."
Sloan-Kettering's centers in Hauppauge and Rockville Centre also are "pretty constrained," Ribaudo said. Though expansions aren't planned there, "it's possible that we could be looking to expand elsewhere on a future date on Long Island."