From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
In the 2019 legislative session the Senate voted unanimously to begin the process of building a national cancer institute in Arkansas.
We dedicated revenue from taxes on medical marijuana and rolling papers to raise $10.5 million for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS.
In a progress report to members of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, the chancellor of UAMS had some encouraging news – we are well on our way to achieving the national cancer institute designation.
He told legislators that if UAMS continues at its current pace, it will be ready to apply for the designation within the next two or two-and-a-half years.
Being designated as a national cancer center is an extremely competitive process. A facility must conduct an extensive array of research, and offer in-depth care.
UAMS has hired 20 additional scientists and by next year anticipates hiring 20 more. It is conducting more clinical trials.
It has been successful raising donations and getting grants to boost its cancer research programs. The hospital is more than half way toward its goal of raising $30 million.
Arkansas citizens who are diagnosed with cancer will not have to travel out of state to receive specialized treatment.
There are other benefits from the designation. UAMS will become eligible for more federal research grants, and it expands opportunities for UAMS to participate in clinical trials.
For example, 68 percent of all grants awarded by the National Cancer Institute go to designated centers.
The economic benefits are substantial too, such as the additional of about 1,500 good jobs over a five-year period.
The National Cancer Institute has designated 71 hospitals in the United States as cancer centers.
The closest one to Arkansas is Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, which is a pediatric center.
For adults, the closest are in Oklahoma City and Dallas.
The chancellor also told legislators that UAMS needs more beds.
It is almost always at 100 percent capacity, and last year the hospital had to turn away about 6,000 transfer requests from other Arkansas hospitals, due to the demands of the Covid pandemic.
Also, inflation has hurt UAMS financially, just as it has hurt smaller Arkansas hospitals.
Hospitals cannot immediately pass along their higher costs along to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies, because their reimbursement rates are set and only increase gradually.
Higher costs combined with static reimbursement rates are one of the main reasons that more than half of Arkansas hospitals are experiencing financial difficulties, he said.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.