BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore has some of the most respected hospitals in the country. But with such resources and talent being centered in one place, patients often drive an hour or more to get life-saving treatment.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, cancer patients in Harford County might not have to make the long trip.

Eighty-four-year-old Rene Lambert feared this day might never come.

“Last of a series of treatments for cancer and I feel great,” Lambert said.

Six months ago, he was diagnosed. Five times a week, he traveled to downtown Baltimore from Havre de Grace.

“Rough,” he said. “The treatment is nothing; the travel is going to kill us.”

Long before Lambert was diagnosed, Carolyn Acker’s husband Bill was on the board of the hospital in Bel Air.

“He just decided that Harford County needed an oncology department,” she said.

Then he developed cancer and, like Lambert, made many trips to Baltimore.

“It was just too stressful for older people and children to have to go down 95 and sit and wait to be taken care of,” she said.

Acker died earlier this year. Now, the place he helped to build, the state-of-the-art Kaufman Cancer Center in Bel Air, has opened.

One of its first patients was Carolyn Acker.

“I’m here because I have uterine cancer,” she said.

The director here now expects some 20,000 patients will no longer have to make the trek downtown.

“When you think about in the first year, a patient might have to take up to a hundred visits in the first year of cancer treatment,” said Doctor Navesh Sharma.

It’s significant–not just from the patient but from the families and support system to go downtown.

All of the equipment here is new but the University of Maryland is justifiably proud that some of their physicists helped to design and develop a particular piece of equipment.

The patients feel such a high-tech, beautiful campus and no commute are helping to heal.

“Now all we have to do is drive here,” Lambert said.

The University of Maryland owns about half of Upper Chesapeake Health and it’s expected that it will buy out the other half within the year.

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