East General opens new “surgicentre”

Dr. Carmine Simone shows off Toronto East General Hospital’s new surgical suite at a launch event on Nov. 18 with Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Dr. Carmine Simone shows off Toronto East General Hospital’s new surgical suite at a launch event on Nov. 18 with Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Measured against the eight-storey tower that will start going up at Toronto East General in 2017, the hospital’s new eight-room surgical suite seems like a small project.

But staff say it is exactly what the hospital needed – a facility designed to quickly handle minor surgeries and diagnostic exams.

And with some 15,000 patients expected to be treated there in its first year, the new “surgicentre” will have an outsized impact on people in East Toronto, North York and further afield.

“The whole idea is that you don’t necessarily want to replicate your operating room,” said Penny Walcott, director of surgery health services. “An operating room is a very expensive place.”

Unlike an operating room, Walcott said rooms in the $2.5-million suite are intended for procedures requiring only local anesthetic, such as skin cancer removals, endoscopies, and surgeries of the eye, nose, hands and feet. Such procedures have lower staff costs, and a less costly level of disinfection than the more invasive surgeries done in a full OR.

Speaking before he and Minister of Health Deb Matthews cut the ribbon at the centre on Nov. 18, Dr. Carmine Simone, the chief of surgery at TEGH, highlighted some of its unique features.

At one end of the hall is an on-site imaging room, which includes a large fluoroscopy machine that can take real-time X-ray video and track the movement of X-ray dyes.

Other imaging equipment at the centre includes endoscopes – the long, thin, flexible tubes with a light and a camera that are often used to examine the bladder, colon, lungs, and digestive system.

Having all that equipment and accompanying sterilizers on-site means patients no longer have to spend time going from department to department in the hospital, said Dr. Simone.

Dr. Simone also pointed out the value of the suite’s negative pressure room, where staff can safely exhaust room air outside the hospital if they believe a patient may have an airborne disease such as tuberculosis, a particular concern in Toronto’s east end.

Rob Devitt, the hospital’s president and CEO, said that Toronto East General is the only hospital in the city that provides most of its day surgeries to people who live in low-income neighbourhoods.

“Having this high-volume, quality surgical centre here is part of our role in delivering service for some of the most needy people in the city of Toronto,” said Devitt.

Minister Deb Matthews, who became Ontario’s deputy premier in February, applauded the suite’s efficient design.

“This is a time of great change in our healthcare system,” she said, adding that Ontario’s population is growing older and more culturally diverse even as the provincial budget is under pressure.

“We have to embrace new ways of doing things,” she said. “And this is one example of that.”

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