published Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Chattanooga oncology practice merges with state's largest

Chattanooga's largest oncology practice is merging with the state's biggest practice, and the deal is expected to create one of the top physician-owned cancer clinic networks in the country.

Chattanooga Oncology and Hematology Associates, which has three clinics in Chattanooga and one in Ringgold, Ga., will change its name to Tennessee Oncology.

Tennessee Oncology already has 30 locations across the state, but no clinics in Chattanooga.

The company's CEO, Jeff Patton, said the merger will help physician-owned oncology clinics from being folded into larger hospital systems. Nationally, many community-based oncology clinics that provide radiology and chemotherapy have been absorbed, said Patton.

"It's a lower cost system than those in hospitals," he said. "If you don't have size and scale, you won't be able to remain independent. We would like to have our cake and eat it too."

The merger, set to be finalized by Jan. 1, will expand services and clinical trials for area cancer patients, officials with both companies announced Tuesday.

"Our goal is to provide here in Chattanooga a level of clinical trials that you might see at an academic medical center like Vanderbilt or Emory. We think this large group will help us do that," said Edward Arrowsmith, president of COHA.

Patients will also have access to Tennessee Oncology's pharmacy. Many new treatments for cancer are oral drugs not stocked in retail pharmacies, but will be available through the merger.

"Cancer is somewhat unique and complex, and the best decisions are made by cancer doctors and cancer nurses," he said.

Contact staff writer Joan Garrett at jgarrett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601. Follow her on Twitter at @JoanGarrettCTFP.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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