New Radiation Therapies Available

by Andrew Elias

JASON MOON is Corporate Administrative Director for 21st Century Oncology, one of the leading providers of radiation therapy services in Southwest Florida, with offices in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Naples. In all, 21st Century Oncology has 90 facilities in 16 states — and is growing.

Jason is also running for a seat as one of the Lee County Hospital Board Directors at a critical time, when healthcare costs are skyrocketing and the face of healthcare in America is changing.

I spoke with Jason Moon by telephone.

Andrew Elias: 21st Century Oncology offers radiation therapy services. What exactly does that mean?

Jason Moon: If you are a patient diagnosed with cancer, you can get different types of therapies such as surgery, chemo and radiation. Radiation is what we provide. I noticed on the website you provide a new therapy called tomotherapy?

What is that?

Tomotherapy is a new type of linear accelerator, which is the machine that provides the radiation.

For what type of cancer?

Prostate cancer is the main cancer tomotherapy is used for.

You also offer IMRT and IGRT. What are those?

IMRT is Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy. Basically, it’s a more accurate form of radiation because we’re able to get a larger dose to the tumor and spare the surrounding normal tissue.

The IGRT is Image Guided Radiation Therapy. That works in real time. Depending on the kind of cancer you have, when you go in for treatment, let’s say for prostate cancer, every 3-5 weeks 5 days a week, your tumor could be several centimeters different than it was the day before. What IGRT does is take a real-time scan to see where the tumor is so radiation will shoot where it is that day.

That’s different from the Prostate Seed Implants, which is called Brachytherapy?

Seed implants are radioactive seeds that are implanted into the prostate. Those are radioactive seeds that are physically put in that have radiation inside of them. That’s not a machine, like a linear accelerator, that provides therapy.

You said that 21st Century Oncology now offers these treatments in Southwest Florida. They were not previously available in our area and people used to have to travel to them?

Right. If you look at our website we are across the nation with 90 offices. We offer Tomotherapy, IMRT and IGRT in our centers here in Fort Myers and across the United States. Today IMRT is more widespread, but when it first came out and you could only get it in very influential academic centers, we had it here in our centers in Southwest Florida.

So these are the newest, latest therapies available?

IMRT is not new — five years ago it was the latest and the greatest, but now it’s more mainstream. We still provide it, but IGRT is now the latest and the greatest.

And Tomotherapy is also rather new?

Tomotherapy is a new type of linear accelerator. It is not a new type of treatment it’s a new machine that we think is very good for our patients. These things are all highly technological and we believe are best for the patients.

21st Century Oncology is also involved with ongoing research?

Yes, we have a research and education arm called 21st Century CARE (Cancer Assistance, Research & Education).

Aside from your work with 21st Century Oncology, you’re running for the Lee County Hospital Board?

I am running for the Hospital Board of Directors in District 3. For the record, my involvement with 21st Century Oncology and my involvement running for the Board has zero to do with each other — totally separate venture.

Why are you running?

Here in Lee County where I live and where 21st Century Oncology is based, Lee Memorial Health System is the large hospital system here in town. They own 95% of the beds in the county. The only hospital in this county that is not part of the Lee Memorial Health System is the Lehigh Hospital, which is a small community hospital. Lee Memorial Health System actually consists of five hospitals. They just purchased two hospitals two years ago for $535 million dollars.

Healthcare is a big portion of the local economy. I think tourism is probably the largest and then it used to be construction and then healthcare, but since real estate and construction have suffered from the current economy, healthcare is probably now the second largest industry here in Fort Myers and Lee County.
I’m running for the Lee County Hospital Board because I think there needs to be more transparency and accountability on the part of the board. I don’t believe there is enough of that now and that’s why I’m running. I think since the health system is so large the community needs more involvement and presently on the elected board, I don’t think there’s enough community involvement.

What does the board do? What do they oversee?

The board is oversight for the hospital administration in its plainest form. The hospital administration makes decisions and the board either approves or doesn’t approve those decisions. I think that up to this point the board has been active, but have kind of been a rubber stamp.

When you say decisions are these decisions regarding pricing, treatment, expansion?

They regard the future of the hospital — the vision that the CEO and the hospital administration has, specifically integrating cooperative efforts of the hospital and the local independent physicians, which is a very touchy subject at this moment. The local independent physicians feel that the Lee Memorial Health System is an 800 pound gorilla and eventually they will try and take over everything.

Why should the average resident or patient in the area care about what goes on with the hospital board?

They should care because, in my mind, the board is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the community. If the board does not know what is going on in the community and how the people feel, then the community doesn’t have an active participant in the hospital. People need to feel like they have a voice and their issues are being raised to the board and that is not being done now.

The people in the community feel like now that Lee Memorial essentially owns almost all of the hospital beds, they have a lack of choice and people don’t like to feel that they can’t choose who their healthcare provider is.

How many people are on the hospital board?

There are ten people on the hospital board and five districts, so there are two elected people per district. They range from former nurses, to physicians to a person who runs a community health system to a college student.

So anyone can run for the hospital board? They don’t have to be a healthcare professional?

That is correct, as long as you’re a registered voter in the district you’re running for. One of the reasons I’m running is that because the system is so large, I feel people with healthcare experience need to be on the board. There are a few meetings a month and you meet with the administration in public meetings because it’s a publicly elected board and the Florida Sunshine Law basically says everything has to be out in the open. Up until now there hasn’t been much public involvement because they haven’t felt like they needed to, but now that the hospital system is larger, people need to get involved and have their voices heard. •

from the September-October 2008 issue

"Until now there hasn't been much public involvement because they haven't felt like they needed to, but now that the hospital system is larger, people need to get involved and have their voices heard."