St. Peter’s Health invests $9 million in state-of-the-art surgical suite

Surgical suite rendering

July 3, 2019

From the Helena Independent Record: 

St. Peter’s Health is beginning a $9 million renovation that will increase the number of operating rooms and provide a new robot-assisted surgical program.

Four phases of renovations are expected to last the next year and a half. Construction will up the number of operating rooms from five to six, offer expanded space and new technology including antibacterial lights, touchscreen access to medical records, and the da Vinci robot, a surgeon-operated tool used for minimally invasive procedures.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shelly Harkins said this is the first major renovation to the operating rooms in decades, and the new surgical suite will offer cutting-edge facilities for staff and patients.

“We just want the community to know this is one more step towards becoming the best hospital in Montana and we’re very excited to offer a state of the art operating room,” she said.

St. Peter’s has several physicians coming out of residency that have trained for robot-assisted surgery, and the hospital expects to train other surgeons. Because of the precision of the robot, the surgeon is able to operate with smaller instruments and higher definition screens to make procedures as minimally invasive as possible and shorten recovery time, Harkins said.

The robot will be used in gynecology, urology and some abdominal surgeries, she said, with some surgeries offered as early as this fall.

Harkins characterized the new definition of screens as going from the precision of the head of a pencil to the head of a needle. New “pass through” areas will mean no more opening operating room doors, which helps with infection prevention. Larger operating rooms will help staff move and work. And new communication technology allows real-time communication with other medical professionals.

“All of those things matter as far as how long it takes to do a surgery,” she said.

Harkins believes the renovations and expanded services will bring more patients to St. Peter’s. She also believes they will help attract and retain quality doctors.

“Surgeons are trained usually in sites that are state of the art,” she said. “Now we’ll have all the bells and whistles coming to a community like Helena.”

During renovations, St. Peter’s will close operating rooms one at a time but add hours to the four remaining operating rooms to maintain services. Once complete, the hospital will be able to offer more surgeries, and that will also mean hiring additional staff, although just how many has yet to be determined, Harkins said.

Planning for the renovation began about a year and a half ago and the project is funded in part by the St. Peter’s Health Foundation. Karin Olsen, foundation executive vice president, said in an email that helping fund the renovation is one way it supports community health care.

“The St. Peter’s Health Foundation engages the community in raising money to support our not-for-profit health system and large-scale capital projects like a state-of-the-art surgical suite. It’s common for projects this size to require a variety of funding sources, and the St. Peter’s Health Foundation will play an active role in the investment of this new asset to benefit our community,” she wrote.

Harkins said St. Peter’s hopes to hold an open house for the community once renovations are complete.