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Keesler to build new cancer treatment center

Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center is preparing to replace a cancer treatment center that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The new Radiation Oncology Center will built 24 feet above sea level, and construction should be finished by September 2009.

Much of the earlier oncology equipment kept on the ground floor was destroyed by Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Construction is expected to begin in mid-April on the $17.4 million center.

Part of the cost includes a new $3.1 million linear accelerator used in cancer treatment and currently housed in the main building.

“This is a significant step in our project to protect the medical center’s high-value equipment,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Robb, a physician who is commander of the 81st Medical Group commander. “Hopefully, the new Radiation Oncology Center, and the central energy plant already under construction, will be safe from any future Katrina-like storm surge. The new facility will enhance our ability to provide the superior care the Keesler community expects from the Keesler Medical Center team.”

The construction cost of $10 million is covered by special Department of Defense post-Katrina funding. The contract was awarded March 4 to Carothers Construction Inc., of Water Valley.

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast is overseeing the project, as it does for many Department of Defense projects in this region. The new center will be used by active-duty and retired military and their families, and patients referred from the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

There are now 27,571 active-duty and retired military and their families enrolled at Keesler Medical Center.

“It is important to provide high-quality spaces that will compare favorably with similar facilities in the public health-care sector,” Lt. Col. Richard Onken, chief of design for U.S. Air Force Health Facilities, said when the contract was awarded.