The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will help control medical costs in the region by improving the quality of care, enhancing research results and reducing hospital readmissions, Nebraska medical officials said Friday.
“We have to take a look at how efficient we can become to reduce health care costs,” said Dr. Harold Maurer, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
With new provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act taking effect, he said, medical providers must learn to provide the best care within the level of payment that will be available under the law.
Dr. Ken Cowan, director of the Eppley Cancer Center, said the Buffett Cancer Center, due to open in 2016, is designed to integrate the latest gene-based research with clinical treatment, including lower-cost outpatient care and counseling that can improve home health care.
The $370 million cancer center is named after Pamela Buffett and her late husband, Fred, because of her multimillion-dollar pledge, officially revealed Friday, toward the project's $160 million private fund drive.
Although the amount of her donation is secret, it's the largest donation she likely will ever make, according to Omahan Susie Buffett, daughter of Warren Buffett. Pamela Buffett's wealth comes from money her family invested decades ago in Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the Omaha investment company Warren Buffett heads.
Pamela Buffett was the regular baby sitter for Warren Buffett's children in the 1950s and later married his first cousin, Fred C. “Fritz” Buffett.
Susie Buffett, who spoke on Pamela's behalf at a press conference at the NU Medical Center, is a member of a fundraising committee for the University of Nebraska Foundation and knew about plans for the cancer center.
She said it suddenly struck her several months ago that Pamela might want to donate to the cancer center because she wanted to honor her husband, who died of cancer in 1997; to do something to support the University of Nebraska, her alma mater; and to help fight cancer.
“This was the perfect opportunity,” Susie Buffett said, so she talked about the cancer center plan with Pamela, who officially signed a donation pledge Thursday.
UNMC and its hospital partner, the Nebraska Medical Center, plan a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday at the cancer center site, located at the west end of the UNMC campus.
Cowan said UNMC will start recruiting researchers, clinicians and staff members for the center right away, a process enhanced by the name recognition that the Buffett family carries. He expects 1,200 additional high-level jobs and a $50 million-a-year boost in cancer research grants because of the new cancer center.
Counting payroll, he said, the cancer center should add $500 million a year to Omaha's economy.
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Moving from existing facilities into the cancer center buildings will free up space elsewhere on the UNMC campus for other medical research and treatment programs, Maurer said. Those programs, he said, will gain as well because of the cancer center, thanks to donors such as Pamela Buffett.
“We are all humbled by Pamela's gift,” he said.
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