Actually, it's thanks to more than Partners for Health, and it's equipment worth a lot more than $70,000, staff orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Main said at a Partners luncheon aboard the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship on Wednesday. And therein lies a story of good things happening at the hospital.
The money was donated to the hospital last year by the Partners group, which over the years has raised literally millions of dollars for numerous gifts of equipment to the hospital. Main used the occasion of the Partners pre-Mother's Day luncheon — yet another fund-raiser — to let the membership know how their money was being put to work.
He first defined orthopedics for his audience as the treatment of bone, muscle and tendon injuries "from the neck to the toes."
Main, whose field of specialization within orthopedics is sports medicine, said he hadn't had a lot of opportunity to put that expertise to use since he's come aboard as a staff surgeon at RLS Hospital. He's been mostly dealing with "falls, gunshots and motor vehicle accidents," he said.
But whatever their cause, many orthopedic injuries can be treated today in ways that are less invasive and less traumatic to the patient than was previously the case. And it was with that idea in mind that he and hospital operating room supervisor Karen Woods went shopping with the Partners money.
With slides and actual hardware to display, he described the purchases:
– An arthroscopy tower system consisting of a micro-camera, computer, monitor and printer that allows medical personnel to "look inside joints via making small incisions and inserting a very small camera to explore." The system cost nearly $20,000, Main said.
– An external fixator, a flexible metal device that is made rigid in the desired shape with screws and is utilized to "treat real complex injuries that may have required amputation until now."
– Three metal drills, each for a different purpose, each worth about $4,000, that are "state of the art, the best on the market."
– A set of hollow screws, costing more than $4,000, that are used "to fix complex fractures, or breaks, without having to have major surgery."
– A femeral distractor, which holds the knee immobile during surgery.
– Sets of wires to be placed inside bones for support strength, much as steel rebar is imbedded in concrete.
– A state-of-the-art heat probe, which is used to heat tissue, thereby enabling physicians "to do big surgeries without having to do big incisions and have lots of rehabilitation."
Main said he and Woods were able to purchase all of the equipment, valued at about $100,000, with Partners contributions of about $70,000. The reason, he said, is that "now that the hospital is semi-autonomous and is paying its bills and is paying for this equipment," vendors are newly interested in doing business with the institution. And so some were willing to do some deals to "get a foot in the door."
In the case of the most expensive item, the arthroscopy tower, he said, Woods was able to get two suppliers into a bidding contest, and in the end the hospital was able to buy the system for about half the market value of $40,000. All told, he said, the hospital saved 30 percent to 50 percent on the costs of the various items of equipment.
All purchases were made through local vendors or those from Puerto Rico, he added, and only from sellers willing to come to St. Thomas to provide service when needed.
About 200 guests, most of them mothers and many of them accompanied by adult children, parents or spouses, attended the function. Following Main's presentation in the South Pacific Lounge, they were served a five-course luncheon in the Great Gatsby dining room. Afterward, Royal Caribbean International personnel took those able to stay on a guided tour of the cruise ship.