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$8M cancer center for Manteca
Facility will serve South County residents
Cancer cntr-2a
A two and a half acre $8 million cancer center is planned for the 1100 block of Norman Drive behind J&M Equipment (formerly Sexton Chevrolet) and other medical offices. - photo by Image Contributed
An $8 million “state of the art” cancer center is on the horizon for Manteca under the name of Valley Cancer Center, Inc.

Dr. Amarjit Dhaliwal, M.D. announced plans on Friday to build the 32,000-square-foot facility on two and a half acres of land near medical offices in the 1100 block of Norman Drive in the Spreckels Park development.
Plans for the construction have been submitted to the Manteca Community Development Department.

A formal groundbreaking is being planned for mid-July. The medical center is expected to be completed by December of this year bringing with it the hiring of some 30 professional staff members including a physicist and two therapists.

The first of three structures will be two stories high with medical oncology, and chemo therapy services on the left and radiation on the right with a vault that will house a linear accelerator and state of the art radiation equipment.

The second building, sandwiched by the other two, is the imaging center that will house a CT scan, MRI units and a PET scanner.  The last building is designed to house physicians’ offices and a conference center.

Dhaliwal has practiced Oncology with Dr. Robert Levy out of their Modesto based Valley Cancer Medical Group for the past 10 years, both routinely coming to Manteca to serve their patients living in the South San Joaquin County serving on the Doctors Hospital staff for several years.   While the multi-million dollar project is that of Dr. Dhaliwal, both he and Dr. Levy will see patients at the new facility.

“We talked to most of the physicians in the community and they are very supportive of the center,” he said.  “In our practice we see 70 to 80 percent Medicare patients,” Dhaliwal added, noting that most cancer patients are in their later years.

He explained that the hospital and the community had been looking for a full cancer treatment facility to locate in the Manteca area.  The patients now have to go to Stockton and to Modesto for their specialized cancer services – for their chemo therapy and for their radiation – a core part of the treatment.  

Dhaliwal said the hospital studied the marketing aspect and need through a consultant in 2009 and the need for a cancer center locally was confirmed through the results of the study.  He noted that Doctors Hospital CEO Mark Lisa was very enthusiastic about the potential for a cancer center in Manteca with his background as an administrator for such a center.

The Manteca cancer center is expected to draw patients from Oakdale to Tracy who are in need of specialized cancer care, he said.

Tenet’s Doctors Hospital of Manteca is currently in discussions with Dhaliwal for possibly leasing the Image Center operating the PET, MRI and CT scans.  They might also do some of their patient admissions at that location, Dhaliwal added.

With construction and equipment costs down due to the economy, the Manteca physician said the total cost of the center five years ago would have been about $16 million – half of what it is estimated to be today.

Opening in the face of a bad economy, Dhaliwal said there is no bad time to start a new venture if there is a passion for the move and the work that is to be done.

Doctors Hospital of Manteca CEO Mark Lisa said the hospital is enthusiastic about what the future holds for the community with the advent of the cancer center.

“We are always supportive of efforts such as this one to provide healthcare services heretofore unavailable, especially when they are as cutting edge and critical as are proposed by this project,”Lisa said. “The hospital has full faith and confidence that this is going to be a great new facility.

“This is the kind of project that ensures that state of the art healthcare will be available to our residents, and responsive to the growth of Manteca and its neighboring communities,” he added.

A native of India, Dr. Dhaliwal said his maternal grandmother was his inspiration to go on to medical school.

“I was very close to her,” he said.  

She passed away when he was in his last year of medical school and about to graduate.  That was 1978-1979.  His grandmother told him he reminded her of her late husband who had also been a physician. “You look exactly the same,” he quoted her as saying.  They were married when he was in his last year of medical school.   He died at 48 after serving in the Second World War.      

“It was her last wish, she wanted to see me as a doctor,” he said. “That left a lasting impression on me all the time.  She was a great woman with great compassion.”

Dhaliwal performed his internship at Cook County Hospital in Illinois planning to get a job out of the specialty for a year or two until he could pay some bills.

“My wife (Rupee) was very helpful when I was doing my residency – and we were raising kids at that time.  She said ‘no’ and put her foot down – she was the main person who got me through this cancer training,” he said. That was at the Medical College in Milwaukee, WS.  His internal medicine training was in Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

His mother Branbir Dhaliwal is currently living in Toronto and is expected to be at the ground breaking festivities, he said.  His late father was a retired engineer who passed away a year and a half ago.