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New cancer treatment center in Riverhead brings all aspects of care under one roof

Riverhead’s New York Cancer & Blood Specialists Center has relocated and reopened in a larger, more patient-focused facility on Old Country Road, just a few blocks from its former home.

The newly constructed building is roughly four times bigger than the previous, incorporating 18 exam rooms, 26 infusion chairs, newly introduced private pods for patients and families, soon-to-arrive custom cushions for benches in those pods, a lab, on-site physicians and medical assistants, an on-site physicist and wellness staff — not to mention an on-site pharmacy set to open within a few weeks.

“We do hematology/oncology; we also do radiology,” said regional director Anthony Peterson. “So, ultrasounds, PET scans and CT scans, and we also do radiation therapy.”

Depending on the type of treatment patients are receiving and/or the purpose of their visit, the center has three to four private entrances. These entrances protect patient privacy and make it convenient for hospital ambulatory staff to pick up and drop off those who require wheelchairs or have a hard time walking, for example.

“We have a financial counselor if people are having a hard time with their balances or need some assistance,” Mr. Petersen said. “We have a whole wellness unit, so we have a nutritionist on site, a psychologist and a social worker to help with all the patient’s needs, health-wise, emotionally, physically, any way we can help the patients — financially, of course.” 

The facility opened Jan. 20 and is seeing roughly 200 patients a day, Mr. Petersen estimated.

“The patients were super happy about having a new home to come to and feel comfortable getting their treatment in,” he said.

In addition to the 26 chairs in the infusion area, the center has set aside a handful of chairs in the back area for patients interested in congregating and potentially forming relationships with those undergoing similar treatment. The center also has two private rooms for patients who are feeling sick or may feel uncomfortable receiving treatment in public. The radiation area, in addition to housing-related machinery, also features two quiet rooms for patients receiving injections in advance of scans. 

Medical oncologist Dr. Yelda Nouri, who is board-certified in hematology and oncology, has been with the practice for six years. She sees patients in Riverhead, Port Jefferson and Great Neck. Dr. Nouri was one of a number doctors who played a role in opening the original Riverhead facility.

“You can get everything you need here,” she said. “It’s so overwhelming when you’re a patient and your doctor’s saying, ‘I want you to get an iron infusion, I want you to see a nutritionist, I want you to get a CT scan.’ They’re like, ‘How am I going to get all this done?’ The fact that they can walk across the hall and actually get their imaging done where their doctor is sitting, is wonderful.”

Dr. Nouri said what she finds most amazing is that many of the center’s patients, older East Enders who have retired from other parts of the island, either don’t drive or experience transportation issues and obstacles.

“The fact that they can accomplish all their needs in one facility is spectacular for them,” she said.

Dr. Nouri describes the architecture of the building and its sister facilities across New York State as “intertwined and embedded” through an open-floor concept that is warm, inviting and bright. Such an architectural concept, she said, is intended to foster an atmosphere of hope and cheer for patients going through a rough time. Artwork lining the facility’s walls and foliage in the main foyer are evidence of that, she said, adding that numerous patients have a more comfortable feel upon entrance.

“When you walk into the office and you can see the doctors and nurses, it kind of breaks down those barriers that we tend to create of ‘Oh, I can never see my doctor. They’re not human beings. They don’t exist in the real world,’ ” she said. “With patients on the East End, we’ve always had this concept — for many, many years — we want to conquer cancer closer to home and … we want patients on the East End to realize that they don’t have to go all the way to Manhattan, Commack to get their care.” 

Dr. Nouri said she has a few patients interested in visiting Memorial Sloan Kettering for consults, but she stressed that everything done there can be done within the center’s one location.

“We kind of follow the same protocol, do everything for them, we can accomplish that for them so they are not spending precious time on the roads sitting in traffic on the L.I.E. and I think that’s super important for patients to realize. We can do everything that they need closer to home. We are bringing, I think, the future of medicine to the East End, where, traditionally, things have always lagged.”

Center administrators are hoping for a formal grand opening in April.

The new facility is located at 750 Old Country Road in Riverhead.