Scripps Health distances itself from proton therapy center
Scripps Health will hand off the day-to-day operations of San Diego's only cancer-targeting proton treatment center to the California Proton Therapy Center in early December as the facility's owners restructure through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Scripps Clinic Medical Group will continue to provide clinical care and Scripps Health, which has four hospitals in San Diego, will manage a portion of the business operations as they have since the center opened in 2014, Scripps officials said. The new owners, California Proton Therapy Center, will contract with a new clinical partner, Proton Doctors Professional Corp.
The ownership change awaits a federal court's approval of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection former owner California Proton Treatment Center sought in March. Scripps Health, which never had an ownership stake in the center, said that the restructuring will not affect patient care.
The now-defunct Advanced Particle Therapy company launched the $220 million center about three years ago. It was one of many that sprouted in recent years and have since struggled to gain traction as the promise to advance cancer treatment came with a hefty price. Advanced Particle Therapy partnered with proton-therapy equipment developer Varian Medical Systems, which provided a $115 million loan to help outfit the Scripps center.
The center initially planned to treat 2,000 patients a year, with higher volumes of prostate cancer patients, but only treated about 1,400 since 2014, according to Scripps. Insurers and policy experts say there isn't evidence to prove that proton treatment produces better outcomes for early-stage prostate cancer patients.
The center has amassed $185 million in debt and has relied on loans to stay open as it failed to "operate on a profitable or even a break-even basis," according to bankruptcy filings. The former owners have since filed a related lawsuit against Scripps claiming that its alleged poor management and planning has led to the center's financial troubles. The complaint also alleges that the center only treated 975 patients from 2015 through March 10, 2017.
"We never violated our agreement one iota during that relationship," Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder said in a statement.
California Proton Therapy Center did not provide comment on the ownership change by deadline.
Scripps and California Proton Therapy Center did not elaborate on how the transition will affect the center's operations.
In the meantime, executives are helping the center's current 45 employees find jobs while they continue to run day-to-day operations through the transition in early December, Scripps said.
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