Truman Veterans Hospital open house displays new operating room suites

Friday, April 13, 2012 | 7:54 p.m. CDT; updated 7:02 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 14, 2012
The new cardiothoracic operating rooms at the Harry S. Truman Veterans' Hospital were shown to hospital staff Friday. The rooms will be used for procedures once they are sterilized and functional.

COLUMBIA — It’s been nearly three years since the groundbreaking ceremony for the Truman Veterans Hospital’s three-phase renovation project.

Phase one is now finished.

The $25 million construction project — which involved renovations for 15 rooms, including two cardiovascular operating rooms, three general operating rooms and an eight-bed post-operative anesthetic care unit — was just recently completed.

The hospital celebrated the completion with a two-hour open house, giving hospital staff and the public a first-glimpse tour of the finished product Friday afternoon.

Pale shades of green, brown and yellow decorate the walls of the new brightly lit, crisp hallways. The operating rooms are spacious and complete with the most modern technology, an operating table and television monitors to view the surgery from various angles.

Additionally, because certain procedures are easier to do in different colored lights, the overhead lights can switch from typical lighting to green, depending on the requirements for the surgery.

With the additional space and modern equipment, the facility will have the capability to perform more procedures and accommodate more patients, with an expectation of a 20 to 30 percent increase in the number of heart patients.

This renovation was essential for the outdated and outgrown operating room. The previous operating room suite stayed relatively unchanged since the hospital opened in 1972.

“Some of the rooms in the old (operating room) are just not appropriate for certain cases, so that meant that we’d either have to wait or be re-scheduled, whereas now, most cases can be done in any one of these rooms," said Richard Schmaltz, chief of surgery. "So it’s going to be not only increased number of rooms, but also increased ability to accommodate just about any case.”

In addition to being able to perform surgeries more efficiently, the new operating room also tackles the lack of modern and up-to-date technology.

“The industry has moved from conventional surgery to more minimally invasive,” said Jennifer Bechtel, the operating room nurse manager. “We just need a different infrastructure so that we could use … a more modern technique so that we can stay modern, we can stay current with the different technologies that surgery is moving towards.”

Even though the operating room has been renovated and improved, the rest of the hospital is still technologically advanced.

“The (Veterans Affairs hospital) has certainly led the industry with our electronic medical records, so we are very much a technology-driven health care system, and the rest of our facility showcases that as well," Bechtel said. "One of the things that we have is an endovascular suite, and I believe we’re the only one in the Missouri area that has it.”

The new six-suite operating room will be used for various surgeries, including open-heart surgery, bypass surgery, valve replacement and laser therapy.

“We always thought that we have had excellent surgery and excellent capacity, but this is truly several steps forward,” Schmaltz said.  

In addition to the operating room suite, the Imaging (X-Ray) Department was relocated and the pathology laboratory was renovated.

These new and improved facilities are expected to officially open May 9.

And, as one phase is completed, the next phase begins. Phase two will focus on the expansion of same-day surgery, while phase three will expand neurology clinic services.

This three-phase project has been in the works since 2007. The entire project is expected to be completed by October 2013.

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