"If proton beam today is not the right way to treat carcinoma of the pancreas, for example, which is an area that is being looked into, then what is?" Eastman says. "We want to be part of the evolution of this technology."
Eastman says research in proton beam also is important to prevent unintended consequences like readmissions. "Whatever Medicare pays for this, they're not going to pay for (excess) readmissions," he says. "So if treatment with proton beam has a lower fistula rate with pancreatic tumors or a lower infection rate or lower chronic radiation fibrosis down the line...we will have a great system to see that."
All good points. So why can't everybody just cooperate? Van Gorder says they've tried to go that route, meeting with every healthcare system in the region and offering to make the proton center "inclusive." In particular, Scripps has offered to collaborate with UCSD.
There have been discussions, Van Gorder says, but UCSD's recent statements indicate, "they're not interested."
I asked members of Scripps' proton beam team whether the situation suggests the need for another certificate of need system, in which a hospital's plans to acquire expensive, redundant technologies would be subject to agency approval.
Of course that won't happen, they say.
It leaves one to wonder how this looks as the nation struggles to cut waste anywhere it can. And again, I wonder what that supercommittee might say about all of this.