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State legislators back off from NIU cancer center criticisms
By Jack Komperda | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/23/2008 12:04 AM

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Some state lawmakers who signed their names to a letter urging health regulators to approve a second proton cancer therapy center in DuPage County are backing off statements critical of the opposing project.

The July 17 letter to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, written by state Sen. Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, claims the Chicago area has the population base needed to sustain treatment centers in both Warrenville and West Chicago.

The letter provides much-needed support for Central DuPage Hospital and its plans to build a proton center in Warrenville. The Winfield hospital has appealed the state agency's rejection of its project. A hearing is scheduled for next month.

In addition to supporting Central DuPage Hospital, Cronin's letter calls into question the viability of a similar proton center being built by Northern Illinois University, which the health planning board approved in February.

Among its criticisms, the letter questions the ability of the DeKalb school to secure funding needed to build the $160 million facility and an agreement that would provide medical staff on the site, which will be located in the DuPage National Technology Park in West Chicago.

"We are unclear and troubled by the proceedings that resulted in approval for NIU," Cronin's letter states.

State Sen. John Millner, a Republican from Carol Stream, acknowledged Tuesday that the characterization of the NIU proton treatment center "could've been done differently."

"I want both centers to be built," Millner said. "I want to make sure both become very successful. And I'll do what I can to promote both centers."

In an undated follow-up letter sent to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which was provided by NIU officials, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano also backs off from the criticisms of the NIU project.

"Let me clarify that I do not question the detailed process of review that was followed by the (health planning board) in granting NIU ... their exemption," wrote Saviano, a Republican from River Grove. "I do not question the ability of either project to complete development in a timely fashion."

Neither Cronin nor Saviano could be reached Tuesday for comment.

"The unfortunate thing is the part of the letter which questioned the ability of NIU to accomplish what it said it was going to do," said John Lewis, the project manager for the NIU proton treatment center. "I think it was a bit unfair. That's a part of the letter some of the legislators saw and felt the need to at least clarify the record."