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Steven Anthony Children’s Hospital in Ponce begins $30M remodeling project

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The Steven Anthony Children’s Hospital (SACH) recently got its Certificate of Necessity and Convenience granted by the Puerto Rico Health Department, clearing the way to start its three-phase, $30 remodeling project, company officials said.

The first phase — to be completed by 2022 — will focus on remodeling the treatment and research center, located in the former Children’s Shelter on Villa Street in Ponce.

“The hospital medical facility will have 50 beds and will provide specialized services to children and teens with cancer. Likewise, it will provide in-hospital services around the medical complex,” said Iván Rafael Ayala-Cruz, president and founder of the organization.

The 80,000 square-foot facility should be completed by 2024.

The pediatric oncology program will exclusively treat childhood cancers like leukemia, brain, and spinal tumors, Ewing’s sarcoma, germ cell tumors, histiocytosis, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome, neurofibromatosis, osteogenic sarcoma, retinoblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and Wilms tumor.

“Through our proposal, we intend to increase the unmet demand for pediatric cancer beds in the southern, central and western regions of Puerto Rico,” Ayala said, adding that the project will attract floating population and overseas medical tourism.

The last phase of the project includes the construction of a boarding house with 15 private rooms, that will be offered free of charge to patients and three family members per room. The facility will also feature an entertainment room and an outdoor play area.

The project will have the first pediatric cancer research center that will integrate chemical and social research in Puerto Rico and adjacent islands. It will support a wide range of biomedical research, among them: basic research to enhance understanding of the fundamentals of cancer; clinical research to test the safety and effectiveness of new treatments, and survival research to reduce the long-lasting adverse effects of cancer and its treatment.

“Cancer is the leading cause of death from illness in children and teens in Puerto Rico and the entire world,” Ayala said.

“Although substantial progress has been made in treating various types of childhood cancer over the past five decades, progress against other cancers has been limited,” he said.

“We need more research to devise new, more effective and safer treatments for childhood cancer, as well as the necessary infrastructure and practices that allow researchers to learn from each child with cancer,” Ayala added.

Paleolithic physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, education and care services, among others, will also be offered.

The mission of the SACH is to increase the survival rate and avoid the exile of the patient to other care facilities outside Puerto Rico.

“The lack of specialized hospital services for pediatric cancer patients causes additional costs for transportation and hospital admissions and adds more grief to patients and their families,” Ayala said

The SACH represents the promise Ayala made after the loss of his son, Steven Anthony Ayala-Cruz, in 2009 as a result of chemotherapy he received after undergoing surgery in Memphis, Tennessee for a brain tumor.

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My name is Kiara S. Visbal and I’m an 18-year-old college student. I’m currently a freshman at Sacred Heart University in Santurce, majoring in journalism. Writing is my number one passion, and I strongly believe that the world wouldn’t be the same without media coverage.
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