CHU Dumont Foundation raises $7M for robot surgery equipment


Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre among top performers in country for robot surgery

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The CHU Dumont Foundation has raised more than $7 million for robot surgical equipment for the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre.

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At a reception Thursday evening, Gilles Allain, the foundation’s CEO, said the surgical team had raised the need for the surgical equipment. At the time, Nova Scotia was the only province east of Quebec with the technology.

“They felt this was better for the system,” he said, noting the medical team had said it would cut down on a patient’s stay in the hospital, and be used to recruit and retain specialists who had trained on the equipment in medical school.

The foundation launched its Driving Surgery Forward campaign in 2022 with a goal of $6.5 million. At the reception it was announced the campaign surpassed its goal and had raised $7,062,870.

“We’re proud of the community that stepped up to support it,” said Allain.

Gilles Allain
Gilles Allain, CEO of the CHU Dumont Foundation, announced on Thursday the foundation surpassed its campaign goal and raised $7 million for robot surgery equipment for the Dumont. Photo by Sarah Seeley/Brunswick News

Allain told Brunswick News the foundation team had made a list of people and businesses to ask about donating. Most of the fundraising was done through calling and meeting with donors and members of the community.

He noted $1 million from the Tree of Hope campaign in 2022 was put toward the robot equipment because the fundraiser is typically to support the oncology department, and many of the robotic surgeries are for cancer patients.

Last fall, the team was close to meeting its goal and several significant donations pushed them over the finish line.

The Intuitive’s da Vinci system has four robotic arms, controlled by a surgeon, and provides a high-definition, 3D view of the operating field. In addition, nine operating rooms were digitized so the medical team in the different ORs could communicate with each other in real time.

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Dr. Jocelyne Hébert, regional medical director for the Dumont, said since February 2023 there have been 370 surgeries performed with the robot device, which has an “immense impact on the heavily challenged health system.” None of the procedures had complications, or had to switch to open surgery.

Hébert and members of the surgical team said in a video played at the reception that the tool is ergonomic and makes surgery more comfortable for the surgeons. It also allows them to perform procedures that would be considered risky with traditional surgery.

When thanking the health staff and donors, Dr. France Desrosiers, president and CEO of Vitalité Health Network, said the Dumont was among the top performers in the country for its first year of having robot surgical equipment.

So far, six surgeons are trained for the robotic surgery program, which is being used for urology and gynecology. The most recent quarterly report for Vitalité stated the average length of stay has been reduced for patients. Currently, the length of stay compared to having open surgery has decreased 2.2 days for a nephrectomy (kidney removal), 1.5 days for a cystectomy, and 0.5 days for a prostatectomy and hysterectomy.

At Thursday’s event, Victor Hachey, an Irishtown resident, gave his testimony of being the first patient to have surgery with the robot on Feb. 1, 2023 about two years after learning he had prostate cancer. When given his treatment options he opted for the robot surgery instead of radiation.

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Hachey said at first his wife was nervous about him being the first person to have surgery with the robot, but was reassured there would be members of the medical team and a da Vinci representative on hand to make sure everything went smoothly.

His surgery and recovery were without complications. Within two weeks of the procedure, he was walking 5 km a day, and two months after the surgery he was hiking in Arizona.

“Everything went well,” he said. “I was always moving.”

Victor Hachey
Victor Hachey, an Irishtown resident, said his prostate cancer surgery was the first using the robot surgery equipment, and it allowed him to have a quick recovery. Photo by Sarah Seeley/Brunswick News

The next stage will be to use the robot for thoracic surgery, and eventually lung surgery colon and rectal surgery, and liver surgery in addition to general surgery, Hébert said.

When Allain was asked what would happen to the funds that were in excess of the fundraising goal, he said the foundation would hold onto it until all the bills were paid, and conversations will be had with the health-care team about other needs.

He said the surgical team has already mentioned the need for a second robotic surgery device, and he added support for youth mental health services is something else he is looking into.

Horizon Health Network has the da Vinci technology at the Saint John Regional Hospital, and the surgical team at The Moncton Hospital has partnered with the Vitalité medical team for a robot surgery program.

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