The competition for medical dollars within the Baltimore-Washington area got a national radio audience this morning, when NPR aired a story about plans for two proton beam therapy facilities in the District of Columbia.
If built, those facilities -- proposed by the Johns Hopkins and MedStar medical systems -- would compete with a facility already under construction in downtown Baltimore, known as the Maryland Proton Treatment Center.
Here's what The Baltimore Sun's Andrea K. Walker wrote about that Baltimore proton beam facility last year:
The NPR piece is fairly strongly critical of the idea that the region could support three such centers. From the radio story:
When completed in 2014, the treatment center will offer a form of cancer therapy growing in popularity that more precisely targets radiation to tumors, resulting in fewer side effects such as damage to other organs.
"This is big news for cancer patients," said Dr. William F. Regine, chair of the radiation oncology department at the medical school. "Now we have another tool. Hope for a cancer patient is about having all the options we can to give them the best chance for survival or outcome and a good quality of life. You want to be cured without devastating side effects that can happen years after treatment."
The facility will add 175 jobs, it will double the capital investment in the BioPark, originally conceived as a home for small biotech startup companies, to $400 million, said James L. Hughes, University of Maryland vice president of enterprise and economic development.
"Neither [Hopkins nor MedStar] should be building," says Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former health care adviser to the Obama administration who is now at the University of Pennsylvania. "We don't have evidence that there's a need for them in terms of medical care. They're simply done to generate profits."
The higher costs of proton services ultimately trickle down to taxpayers, employers and consumers in the form of higher health insurance premiums.