TULSA, Okla. — Patients at Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tulsa are scrambling to find new care. The facility is scheduled to close in less than two months.
Wearing a special hat in honor of his colleagues who have passed away from cancer, Commander Murry Estabrook, along with other patients, plead for help to keep CTCA Tulsa open.
“In all my life I have never had care like I have here," Estabrook said.
“I was circling the toilet," said CTCA patient, Bill. "I was at stage four by the time I got here. I’d be dead if it wasn’t for these people.”
Estabrook was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in January. If Estabrook wants to continue treatment at a CTCA facility, he’ll have to travel to Phoenix, Atlanta or Chicago.
“I can’t afford that," Estabrook said. "So I’m going to settle for care that I don’t consider as effective as here.”
“A lot of these patients feel like they’re without hope," said Margie Dodson. "You know, just the devastation is just, there’s a ripple effect throughout the whole entire building.”
Dodson’s mother has been receiving treatment from CTCA Tulsa for two years. They travel from southwest Missouri every two weeks. Her sister also travels more than 100 miles for care. Now, they're unsure of what they’ll do.
“Absolutely going to interrupt their treatment," Dodson said. "And trying to find somebody that you have the confidence to go and get the treatment that you’ve received here, you know you’re getting state-of-the-art treatment here.”
Estabrook said he believes part of the reason CTCA Tulsa is closing is due to failed contract negotiations between it and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
We reached out to CTCA about these allegations and it said:
"We prefer not to comment on specific insurance companies, but we did encounter barriers that prevented access for patients. We had hoped for a different outcome and worked tirelessly to overcome the specific and significant market conditions in Oklahoma. Our team is currently reaching out to assist each and every one of our patients with a seamless transition of care to one of our other CTCA centers or a local provider, as preferred."
Blue Cross Blue Shield Oklahoma released a statement saying:
"As the state’s oldest and largest customer-owned health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) provides access to quality health care for all members. The vast majority of BCBSOK members have coverage for out of network services and can choose to utilize them anywhere they want, including Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). It is unfortunate that BCBSOK members receiving care at CTCA’s Tulsa campus will be impacted by the closure. We will work with our members to transition care to other facilities so local treatment can continue. BCBSOK’s network of in-state oncology providers is adequate and robust, enabling Oklahoma residents with Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage, to access high-quality cancer treatment and care."
Estabrook is calling on leaders to keep CTCA Tulsa's doors open.
“I want the governor to understand five thousand, five thousand of his constituents are in this, whatever this is, 50, 100 acres, he’s got five thousand constituents right here that he needs to help," Estabrook said.
CTCA Tulsa is scheduled to close at the end of May.
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