Miami-Dade County

Gov. Rick Scott promotes cancer center funding plan in Miami

Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Friday to tout his budget proposal to spend $80 million helping Florida cancer centers qualify as National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated facilities.

Scott’s appearance was part of a statewide sweep to drum up support for his proposals, which would take effect in the fiscal year beginning in July if approved by the Legislature.

Sylvester could receive a third of the $60 million of the funds earmarked for the centers. The other $20 million will fund research.

“Sylvester is important because it is South Florida’s only academically-based cancer center. We are competing with other cancer centers around the world. I want Florida to be No. 1,” Scott said.

The NCI designation is a boon for hospitals not only to raise their level of care, but also because consumers may equate it with state of the art treatment.

“Florida has the second highest number of cancer cases in the country, but only one NCI-designated cancer center. Sylvester will be the second,” University of Miami President Donna Shalala said.

The other NCI cancer center is Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

Obtaining the NCI designation is a long and rigorous process requiring cancer centers to demonstrate expertise in complex specialties. The funds will support more specialists and doctors to make breakthroughs in complex cases, said Sylvester Director Dr. Stephen D. Nimer.

He said the money “will have a $1.2 billion impact on the economy by 2016 and attract the top minds in the field.”

The funding for the cancer centers is part of the governor’s $1.4 billion proposed budget that would be paid for by $846 million in state revenue surplus and by as-yet unspecified tax cuts. With the funding, Sylvester doctors anticipate they could qualify for the NCI designation in less than five years.