New UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center expected to benefit the island in many ways

The following article is extracted from one written by B.G. Doyle and  published on Sept 24 2015 in the Caribbean Big Businesses profiles: Constructions & Real Estate magazine.

By the end of next year, residents of Puerto Rico will have access to cutting-edge cancer treatment options without leaving the island. With construction underway on the new University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center, the fully equipped high tech facility will be located adjacent to the Río Piedras Medical Center in San Juan, and will feature a full array of specialized departments, units and technology.

“You won’t find another hospital like this one in Puerto Rico—not even close,” said Antonio Fullana, partner of F&R Construction Group, one of the project’s main builders in collaboration with RB Construction Group. He added that in addition to the latest technology and excellent design scheme, what makes this project unique is the local involvement. “This is a fully integrated job with both contractors [F&R and RB] from the island,” he said. “And given that the University of Puerto Rico is the owner, it’s a historic local effort in a number of ways.”

Located at the southwest corner of the intersection of PR-18 and PR-21, the new state-of-the-art environmentally sensitive facility will form part of the renowned Science City project, with a number of key departments housed in the 12-story, 286,000-square-foot building. The project will also include the construction of a service yard, offsite utilities, parking area, site improvements and sidewalks. New roads are also being built to provide better access to the area, including an on-ramp to PR-18, an on/off ramp to and from PR-21 and a four-lane boulevard, among others.

“This is a very important project for our island,” said Ángel López, vice president at RB Construction. “We really need this center here in Puerto Rico, not only for healthcare purposes, but also for the hundreds of jobs it’s already creating and will continue to create once it’s completed.”

“We really need this center here in Puerto Rico, not only for healthcare purposes, but also for the hundreds of jobs it’s already creating and will continue to create once it’s completed.” —Ángel López, vice president at RB Construction

Regarding the various features and services the facility will contain once in full operation, the ground level will house examination rooms, 12 fusion rooms, 14 infusion chairs, an Urgent Care area, a pharmacy, office areas and a loading dock. The first level will contain the clinical area and laboratories, a kitchen and dining area and additional office space. The treatment and examination rooms will be located on the second level, with mammography, biopsy, ultrasound MRI, CT/PET, Gamma camera and intervention rooms on Level Three. The next floor will contain the operating rooms and recovery areas, with the fifth level housing mechanical and electrical equipment. Spanning levels six through nine will be 96 patient rooms, including the Intensive Care Unit, with the penthouse level containing additional mechanical areas. “Last Monday we raised the final steel beam to the roof and it was a very proud moment,” López said. “We had a nice ceremony and every single worker signed that beam. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla was there too.”

Given that the new Cancer Center will be at the epicenter of the Science District, with Science City Boulevard linking the Medical Center to the future Science City premises at the old “Oso Blanco” penitentiary site across PR-18, Fullana pointed out that the project has been designed with four overarching goals in mind. “For one, it will have a unique image,” he said. “In turn, this will make it an icon for future development of the Science District, and attract research and further investment and collaboration.”

Once completed, this prominent cancer-care facility is also expected to serve as a bridge to a new healthcare environment, with easy accessibility for researchers, doctors, students, patients, and the general public. And while it will also increase opportunities for state-of-the-art cancer care for the Puerto Rican community and Caribbean region, it is expected to develop critical mass for a new paradigm in healthcare as well. The island is lamenting the exit of talented healthcare professionals, so the new Cancer Center could perhaps encourage their return, as well as attract additional surgeons and specialists in the areas of medical oncology, breast cancer, diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine. In other words, the success of the Cancer Center may possibly lead to the development of a multidisciplinary center in the area, not only attracting professionals from Puerto Rico, but also from abroad.

From the environmental perspective, the project is not only preserving existing green areas, but also providing newly landscaped areas within the newly built environment. The design also complies with USGBC LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver Certification standards, while considering a broad range of sustainability issues. According to López, the project is already 60% completed, and one of the García Padilla administration’s top projects. “Everyone, including the governor, the University of Puerto Rico and the medical community see the Cancer Center as a very worthwhile project,” he said. “Not only will it benefit our people and provide the level of healthcare services they deserve, but it also will encourage professionals from all over to invest their talent here.”