'A huge change' for St. Luke's

St. Luke's hospital is relentless in promoting its slogan: "The patient above all else." But the Duluth hospital hasn't been able to give patients and their families the best experience when it comes to operations and procedures, acknowledged Ton...

Ann Nollett, robotics surgery coordinator (center), along with (from left) Jenny Swor, RN, Kristine Johnson, surgical technician and Dan Rudolph, RN, set up an operating room in the new surgical center at St. Luke's for an upcoming open house. Bob King /
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St. Luke's hospital is relentless in promoting its slogan: "The patient above all else."

But the Duluth hospital hasn't been able to give patients and their families the best experience when it comes to operations and procedures, acknowledged Toni Schultz, director of surgical services.

"It's one big room with curtains dividing it," Schultz said about the preoperative and postoperative facilities. "It's a lot of up and down for families. Our family waiting area isn't on the same level as the patients. On average, six times your family is up and down to see you."

It's a highly charged atmosphere, she said, lacking the privacy and quiet that patients and their families crave on a stressful day.

All of that will change dramatically on Monday, St. Luke's administrators and physicians say, when the hospital's expanded surgical and procedural care unit opens on the fourth level of what the hospital simply calls Building A.


"For our patients, it's going to be a huge change," said Dr. Mary Boylan, a cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Luke's.

Added Schultz: "We want to give you a quiet, private, peaceful place where you can hold your loved one's hand."

Schultz and radiology services director Scott Studden showed off the $22.5 million expansion on Tuesday, ahead of an open house today for the 36,000-square-foot facility.

Among other features, hospital administrators are touting:

• Forty-two private pre-op and post-op rooms where family members will be able to sit with their loved ones in virtually soundproof conditions.

• Free parking immediately adjacent to Building A, just one level below the surgical center.

• Bedside registration for patients.

• Four suites for endoscopy procedures, one for special procedures and four universal operating rooms, all state of the art.


Then there's the hybrid operating room.

At 1,200 square feet, it's "bigger than some of the apartments I lived in when I was training," Boylan said.

The centerpiece of the cathedral-like space is a $1.5 million Siemens Artis Zeego, a robot-assisted imaging system that gives the physician three-dimensional images of the patient's anatomy, Studden said.

Modeled after robots used in automobile manufacturing, the German-engineered machine provides "super high-quality imaging at a low radiation dose," he said.

The space is designed for minimally invasive procedures, but with the flexibility to allow the patient to be operated on surgically if that becomes necessary, he said.

Now, when radiological procedures take place, Schultz has to keep an operating room open in case it's needed, she said.

"So if they ran into trouble, they would have to wrap their patient up, put them in an elevator and take them up four flights," she said. "Now we can open right here. I have uber versatility here."

A control room that looks like something out of NASA faces the hybrid operating room. Radiology technicians will sit at monitors there, converting data into images that will simultaneously appear on their screens and in the operating room. On the other side, a second enormous room one day will be a second hybrid operating room, Studden explained.


All told, the first hybrid room cost nearly $4 million to equip, he said.

Because of the improved facilities, St. Luke's will be able to perform some procedures that were sent elsewhere in the past, Studden said.

Added Boylan: "These rooms are designed with that multi-specialty approach to treat the patient. It's something we couldn't do before."

It will be an improvement for surgeons, who now will be working in state-of-the-art facilities, she said. It will be an improvement for staff, because the new facility is designed with convenience in mind.

It especially will be an improvement for patients.

"Right now we see our patients before surgery ... and they're in a big room with curtains separating one patient from another," Boylan said. "And now everyone will have their own personal space. We as physicians are very happy to see that."

Patients will enter surgery in a better frame of mind, she said.

In Boylan's view, it will bring the hospital's physical plant to the level of care already provided by its doctors and staff, she said.

"It is the launching pad, I think, for St. Luke's for the future," Boylan said. "This is the foundation that we need in order to keep growing."

If you go:

What: Open house for St. Luke’s surgical and procedural care expansion
Where: St. Luke’s Building A, 1012 E. Second St.
When: 2 to 6 p.m. today.
Details: Ribbon-cutting ceremony and program at 3:30 p.m. The event is free, and no registration is required.


Related Topics: HEALTH
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