Starting Monday, Johnson City Medical Center’s surgery patients will see firsthand the product of millions of dollars of capital projects dedicated at the hospital’s campus over the last five years.
Mountain States Health Alliance leaders debuted the $63 million expanded and upgraded surgery department Friday for local media outlets, government officials and business professionals before the wing officially opens for patient admissions Monday.
The tower’s 16 operating rooms aren’t an increase over JCMC’s previous capacity, but each room is 30 percent larger, which allows more space for the modern surgical equipment needed by today’s doctors.
“When we started practice back in the ’80s, the operating rooms were basically small,” cardiothoracic surgeon Andrew Poret said. “As we tried to go to smaller incisions and less invasion to give our patients better outcomes, the ironic thing is you need more room. The equipment and the things you need in the room have greatly expanded.”
The technology incorporated into the new operating rooms puts the resources available to the medical center’s surgeons on par with those in larger hospital systems in more populous cities.
One of those technological advances, an advanced robotic imaging system known as the Artis zeego, allows surgeons to examine a patient’s internal organs and structures before, during and after procedures without having to move the patient.
The robotic C-arm on the zeego allows it to move around the patient in any position and create 3-D representations of organs that can then be displayed on the handful of viewing screens positioned around the operating room.
Like other departments in the hospital, the new surgery wing will employ Xenex robotic ultraviolet disinfection systems to help reduce the risk of postoperative infections.
David Nicely, CEO of MSHA’s Washington County facilities, said the new tower was designed with the safety and comfort of patients and their families in mind.
“Families are going to notice a big difference before they every walk into this center,” Nicely said, noting the dedicated parking near the tower’s entrance. “We’ve also redesigned our patient-flow process, so that now our patients’ families can spend more time with them during the pre-operative process, and we’ve really eliminated a lot of the waiting that goes on during a normal procedure.”
The finished capital project represents the achievement of a long-term goal for retiring CEO Dennis Vonderfecht, who will be replaced at the beginning of next year by Alan Levine.
New surgery space at the Johnson City hospital’s campus was an identified priority in MSHA’s strategic plan as far back as 2008, and was recognized as a need even earlier, Vonderfecht said.
“We’ve had this in the plans for a good five to 10 years, but we’ve had a lot of capital requests over the years that we’ve had to commit to in terms of new hospitals,” he said.
With the openings of Niswonger Children’s Hospital, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, Johnston Memorial Hospital, Smyth County Community Hospital and the surgery tower, Vonderfecht said MSHA’s capital needs have been met for now, save any construction needs when Unicoi County Memorial Hospital joins the system.
The bottom level of the surgery tower houses the hospital’s new radiation oncology center, which doubled the size of the former cancer center to provide room for a new, more precise linear accelerator and separate spaces for adult and child patients.