New Saint Anne’s surgical unit offers cutting-edge technology

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — You’ll find two disparate worlds coming together on the fourth floor of Saint Anne’s Hospital’s newest building.

Named after St. Teresa of Calcutta, the state-of-the-art surgical unit that occupies the 19,500-square-foot top level of what is known as Saint Anne’s Pavilion, is a combination of good, old-fashioned healing and compassion and cutting-edge robotic technology.

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With a smiling portrait of the merciful saint who once visited the Fall River Diocese looking on, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., blessed and dedicated the new fourth floor unit on February 9 — appropriately enough, on World Day of the Sick.

“We are very excited to show this beautiful, new inpatient surgical unit, along with our robotic surgical technology, and our new bariatric surgery option,” said hospital president Michael Bushell. “We are also privileged to have his excellency, Bishop da Cunha, here with us today to celebrate Mass with us this morning to recognize World Day of the Sick, and to bless this new unit, dedicated to St. Teresa of Calcutta.”

“Let us ask God’s blessing on this building, erected for the care of the sick,” Bishop da Cunha prayed. “By the grace of Your Holy Spirit, make this place a house of blessing and a center of love, where physicians practice the art of healing wisely, where nurses and aides serve the sick with care, where the faithful come to visit Christ in the person of their brothers and sisters. Grant that comforted in their illness, the patients will quickly regain their health and joyfully thank You for the favors they have received.”

The new expansion adds 26 private patient rooms to Saint Anne’s Hospital, each with private bathrooms and showers, family seating and sleep sofas, clinician care zones and built-in computers to allow staff more time at the patient’s bedside, according to hospital president Michael Bushell.

“Our inpatient volume over the past five years has grown 41 percent, or eight percent per year,” Bushell explained. “Our inpatient and outpatient surgery volume over the last five years has grown almost 37 percent. On average, that’s about an eight-percent growth per year, so we’ve added two new state-of-the-art operating rooms to accommodate our robotic technology that is on display here today. In addition to the operating rooms, we’ve also added recovery bays to support that additional volume.”

The newly-dubbed St. Teresa Unit is home to advanced technology such as the da Vinci robot, used for general surgery and special procedures such as hernia repair, colorectal, urology and gynecology surgery; the MAKO robot, used for knee and hip replacement surgeries; and the Globus ExcelsiusGPS robot, which uses robotics and a sophisticated navigation system — similar to that in a car — to guide the surgeon in performing delicate spinal procedures.

Saint Anne’s Hospital is the first hospital in Massachusetts to use this innovative technology.

“This is the first robot in the country that combines navigation and robotics,” explained Dr. Charles Kanaly, medical director for Saint Anne’s Spine Center, during a demonstration. “So far we’ve done a dozen surgeries here and they’ve all gone great. The robot doesn’t do the surgery — it just assists you. Most of the companies now just have a navigation system where you hold the instrument up and watch a screen and it will show you where the screw is going. The guy who invented this used navigation and wanted something to hold his instruments in place instead of his physician assistant or resident (having) to hold them in place, so he invented the robot.”

Dr. Kanaly performed the first ExcelsiusGPS spinal fusion procedure at Saint Anne’s in December and he noted that the guidance system has a number of advantages for patients.

“It is minimally invasive, which allows the surgeon to use much smaller incisions along the spine,” he said. “That means less post-surgical pain, less scarring, less blood loss, fewer complications, and faster recovery.”

Saint Anne’s was also the first in Massachusetts to offer robotic-assisted MAKO partial knee replacement surgery in 2011, followed by MAKO total hip replacement in 2012. The hospital will expand its MAKO capabilities this month when it begins total knee replacement operations. To date, more than 700 MAKO procedures have been performed.

“All surgical patients will be in this wing — whether it be orthopedic surgery, spine surgery, general surgery — everything will come to this unit,” said Christine Santos, R.N. “We’re also going to be starting a bariatric program, and they will be coming here as well.”

According to Bushell, the steady increase of inpatient and outpatient procedures over the last five years at Saint Anne’s Hospital has allowed them to develop a “supply-and-demand issue” and that’s why they’ve decided to expand and offer more services.

“The emergency department over the last five years, volume has grown by 18 percent — on average, four percent per year. So in order to move patients through the emergency room quickly, we’ve added a rapid assessment area that deals with less serious issues like a sore throat or an ankle sprain,” he said. “The rapid assessment area is staffed with a dedicated nurse practitioner who will see patients a lot quicker than our current model. We’ve also built a behavioral health suite to help with the city’s behavioral health issues. It’s a six-bay private suite with safe ceilings in a calmer environment for our behavioral health patients. In addition, we’ve also expanded our surgical services.”

Bushell praised the continued support and commitment of Steward Health Care, which invested almost $24 million to bring this project to fruition.

“None of this would have been possible without the investment of Steward Health Care and their continuing commitment to bring world-class health care to the communities they serve,” he said. “Many thanks, as well, to the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation, who opened this hospital in 1906 and the entire Saint Anne’s team who have work diligently to support the project throughout.”

In addition to Bishop da Cunha, among the honored dignitaries at the unit’s blessing and dedication were Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II and State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, who lauded Saint Anne’s ongoing commitment to the community.

“There’s no need to go to Boston to get first-class, world-class (health care) services,” he said. “We have it right here in Fall River and thanks to the investment of Steward Health Care at Saint Anne’s, we’ll be able to enjoy these services for many, many years.”

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