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Comfort zone

MercyOne Newton Cancer and Infusion Care clinic finds new home with bigger features

When MercyOne Newton Medical Center wanted to expand and relocate its cancer and infusion care clinic, community donors generously responded by contributing more than $230,000 in less than two months. Shortly after, the new MercyOne Newton Cancer and Infusion Care found a new home.

Leisa Zylstra, foundation and mission manager for MercyOne Newton, attributes the size and speediness of these donations to people wanting to make a difference in their community and connecting personally with cancer. It’s easy for people to understand what patients are going through, she said.

“If you think about it, almost all of us know someone who has been touched by cancer,” Zylstra said. “So I think it was easy for people to understand the impact this space could have on patients and just really wanted to be able to do that and support the community through that gift.”

Several of those donors’ names are printed on a plaque in the waiting room of the newly located clinic:

The Schiller Family Foundation, Bradford and Mary Manatt, Dr. Dan Buroker, Dr. Tom Buroker, Dr. Tara Graff, Bret and Amy Doerring, Geisler Penquitte Foundation, MercyOne Newton Auxiliary, Jeff and Jodi King, Jane Ann Cotton, Lenny and Barb Woythaler, Larry and Shari DeCook, Lee and Veronica Mangrich, Dr. Paul and Diane Ruggle.

“We were fortunate a couple (donors) we met with early on were willing to contribute at a very significant level,” Zlystra said. “That made a huge difference. Everyone was just so generous. If we met with them and talked to them about the project, the next day I would have a call saying, ‘Count on us.’”

Set up inside the former public health office (back when Skiff Medical Center was a municipal hospital and before it affiliated with MercyOne Des Moines), the new location for the MercyOne Newton Cancer and Infusion Care clinic is about 1,000 square feet larger than its previous space. And it shows.

Prior to the move, patients and the oncology clinic staff adapted well to their cramped surroundings in the lower level of the Ross Medical Arts Building. But the space limitations were evident, especially when a third oncologist was added to the clinic. Zylstra said staff “maximized” the space as best they could.

Eventually, staff were forced to temporarily relocate elsewhere when a pipe burst during the winter. The relatively untouched former public health office would suit staff and patients well during their short stay. In fact, at the time, patients praised the clinic’s larger quarters and close location to an entrance.

Both staff and patients would have been more than happy to stay at the temporary clinic, Zylstra said, but there were no finances to fund such a move.

“So they moved back to their clinic, but as they continued to have more and more patients (hospital administrators) started thinking, ‘Can we make this happen?’ Once we had a little bit of a plan together, we started meeting with donors,” Zylstra said. “This project moved very quickly.”

Before the clinic could move, there were much needed upgrades. The office space had not been used extensively for some time and had a rather outdated look compared to other facilities in MercyOne Newton. Zylstra said the clinic underwent a complete overhaul.

Apart from new lighting, paint, desks and carpeting, the clinic is now equipped with three exam rooms, a lab draw room, physicians office and an infusion area that comfortably seats up to nine patients and their accompanying support person. Efficiency and comfort were important during construction.

Olivia Ringgenberg, a registered nurse at the MercyOne Newton Cancer and Infusion Care clinic, said the patients enjoy the new location. They enjoy there is room to bring their support person along with them. The previous office only had one chair for a guest.

“We’re going to be able to bless a lot of people for a very long time in this space,” Ringgenberg said. “They’re not going to have to travel to Des Moines. We can accommodate more people for a variety of things, not just cancer treatments … You won’t be far from home, which is all we can really ask for.”

To sit in one of those chairs, as a cancer patient, for the first time “can be really scary” for some people, Ringgenberg said. Having a more comfortable space — especially one that doesn’t appear “clinical” or jarring with its aesthetics — goes a long way. These small details are not insignificant to patients.

“That’s a big deal for everybody,” Ringgenberg said.

Veronica Mangrich, also a registered nurse at the oncology clinic, emphasized the oncology and infusion care clinic should not be “another stresser” for patients. Staff want patients to come the clinic, sit down for their treatment and feel warm and relaxed as best as they can. The clinic needs to be a safe place.

“We fully, fully embrace that for them,” Mangrich said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at
641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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