Since the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center opened in Havre, the quality of care to Hi-Line residents has increased substantially.
A proposed federal regulation endangers at least some of that care, and the proposal should be rejected out of hand.
Under the proposal being studied by a Department of Health and Human Services panel, a radiation oncologist will have to be present every time radiation treatment is administered.
At Sletten's Havre clinic, an oncologist sets up the radiation program and administers the first round. After that, the staff at Sletten in Havre administers the treatment.
Having a full-time oncologist at Sletten in Havre is not economically feasible. While the proposed rule might be feasible in mid-town Manhattan, it would result untold difficulties in Havre and most rural; communities.
People suffering from cancer, especially those undergoing radiation treatments, would find it difficult to traipse down to Great Falls — a nearly 240-mile round trip — every time they wanted to undergo treatment. Some would find it impossible.
Instead of being rejected, the Sletten model should be emulated throughout rural areas.
The ultimate decision will be made by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, who knows what it's like to live in rural areas.
We hope the secretary will keep her rural background in mind when she makes the decision.