Forbes adds robotic surgery

Luis Fábregas
| Friday, Jan. 20, 2012

The planned addition of $2.2 million in robotic surgery equipment at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville has little to do with the opening of rival UPMC East, the chief medical officer at Forbes said Thursday.

"This is totally patient-centric," said Dr. Mark Rubino, a gynecologic surgeon, when asked by the Tribune-Review whether the addition of the daVinci Surgical System is the latest salvo in an ongoing competition that has included Forbes gaining approval to add and expand signage at its facility.

The daVinci robotic equipment, which can be used to mimic a surgeon's hand movements in real time, will mostly be used for hysterectomies and prostate removal, Rubino said. With the dual-console robot, two different surgeons at once can use the machine, which makes small incisions with tiny instruments that can be difficult to manipulate in conventional laparoscopic surgery. The vast majority of prostate removals are done using the equipment because it is difficult to reach the prostate.

Doctors at Forbes perform about 120 hysterectomies every year, and the percentage of procedures performed with robotic techniques is expected to increase.

"We've had a very busy women's health service line, and we've been able to maintain obstetrics and women's health services. Why should I make my patients drive Downtown to get these procedures?"

Forbes finds itself preparing to battle UPMC East, a $240 million hospital expected to open this summer less than a mile away.

Forbes, owned by financially troubled West Penn Allegheny Health System, this month received approval to erect three oversized signs on top of its 35-year-old building to compete with those placed atop UPMC East.

Highmark Inc., the state's largest health care insurance company, is awaiting state approval to acquire the West Penn Allegheny system.

A single-console daVinci system has been in use for some time at two of Forbes' sister hospitals - Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side and West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield. Surgeons at AGH in June used the daVinci system to extract a donor kidney that was used in a transplant.

There are no plans to have daVinci equipment at UPMC East. Spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said UPMC has used the daVinci equipment at five of its hospitals -- Presbyterian, Montefiore and Shadyside in Pittsburgh, Passavant in McCandless and Hamot in Erie -- for several types of surgery. At Magee, for instance, it is used for benign hysterectomies, gynecologic oncology cases, urologic procedures for women and men and bariatric surgery.

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