Niagara County has some of the worse cancer problems of any county in New York, but it is getting help. Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center have partnered with the Golisano Foundation to kick in $1.5 million toward the cause.
Niagara Falls Memorial and Roswell Park already have been collaborating on cancer care in Niagara Falls, while the Golisano Foundation lent its name to the $7 million Golisano Center for Community Health at Memorial in 2016. The three are now collaborating to create the Golisano Medical Oncology Center for expanded cancer care.
This means that in a city and county with serious poverty and transportation issues, care will be available on Tenth Street. Memorial Hospital President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo said this help is urgently needed.
"Save lives in a county where the incidence of people with cancer is actually getting worse, not better," Ruffolo said. "In fact, the State Health Department released statistics showing that there is a 10% rise in cancer over the past couple of years. So it's not getting better, it's getting worse, and that places Niagara County among the six counties in the state with the highest rate of cancer prevalence."
Ruffolo's brother spent years battling cancer, but today is well. Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson said there are many patients to benefit.
"We've had over 320 appointments for patients in the thoracic clinic from Niagara County," Johnson said. "These are residents that are being screened for our lung cancer screening program, really, really important because, man, if you can prevent cancer, you don't have to go through all of the things that Joe described that his brother had to be. So prevention is really what we're all about and, unfortunately, in areas of need, screening sometimes doesn't happen."
Memorial and Roswell Park doctors said having care closer to home, and not miles away on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, will persuade more people to come in for screening and treatment in the new facilities.
Oncologist Dr. Bhuvama Kumar uses chemotherapy to treat blood diseases.
"A lot of them are unable to drive and that's the reason they don't get to the treatment or get to that appointment," Kumar said. "But now it's right here and transportation will no longer be an issue. So they can get access they need. They can get the care they need. I think it's going to make a huge difference."
Niagara Falls deals with poverty and a large percentage of the city population without cars.