By Chad Lawhorn
Lawrence Memorial Hospital leaders will consider $4 million worth of purchases in the next year that would include a new high-tech surgery system that uses robotic arms to conduct complicated medical procedures.
The hospital’s board of trustees was told Wednesday that LMH leaders likely will recommend $2.1 million be included in the hospital’s 2013 budget to purchase a da Vinci robotic surgical system, which will allow doctors to perform hysterectomies, colon procedures, prostate treatments and other types of surgeries in a less invasive manner.
“It really has become the standard for many facilities in the area,” said Karen Shumate, vice president and chief operating officer of LMH. “And I can tell you that many of the new surgeons have been trained in this technology and they want to be at hospitals where they can continue to use it.”
The technology involves doctors making small incisions — often measuring just a few centimeters — that can accommodate up to four robotic arms being inserted into the patient. A surgeon then controls the robotic arms and the attached surgical devices from a remote-control station just outside the surgery area.
The system’s manufacturer, da Vinci Surgery, claims the technology often can reduce the amount of time a patient must stay in the hospital and quicken the overall recovery process.
Hospital board members said they were interested in seeing more information about the proposed purchase as part of their budget deliberations.
Shumate said the new technology won’t allow the hospital to receive higher reimbursement from insurance companies, but she thinks the high-tech system will be financially positive for the hospital by reducing the number of Lawrence residents who may be leaving the city to have procedures performed.
“There are some estimates that 25 percent of all hysterectomies in the U.S. are being performed with the da Vinci system,” Shumate said. “That trend hasn’t yet hit Kansas, but it likely will.”
Board members also were told the hospital is considering spending $2 million to replace two CT scanners at LMH. Shumate said one of the two units had reached its replacement age, and that she was recommending the other unit be replaced because of how far CT technology has advanced in recent years.
She said the new CT scanners expose patients to about 60 percent less radiation during many types of scans. The new scanners also are significantly quicker, which she said is helpful when taking scans of small children and also one other category that people may not immediately think of: inebriated patients.
“That is a population that frequents our emergency rooms on weekends,” Gene Meyer, LMH chief executive officer, told board members.
In other LMH news, board members were told the hospital is in the early stages of recruiting a new psychiatrist to the community. The hospital was approached by a medical student in the final stages of a residency program, said Sheryle D’Amico, vice president of the hospital’s physician division.
D’Amico said the hospital is exploring options for hiring an LMH-employed psychiatrist because physician studies have shown the Lawrence area has a shortage of psychiatrists. A new position probably wouldn’t be available until next summer, but D’Amico said the hospital may make a decision on whether to move forward before the end of the year.