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New St. David’s surgery center opening in North Austin uses robotics


St. David’s HealthCare is opening a new North Austin surgical hospital Wednesday that will offer, among other services, many robotics-assisted procedures.

St. David’s purchased the facility, off Louis Henna Boulevard, partly to serve the fast-growing populations of North Austin and Williamson County. The facility will offer a wide range of specialties, including spinal, bariatric and orthopedic surgery, according to St. David’s managers. A key feature of the facility is its inclusion of robotic arms that surgeons would use to perform relatively straightforward procedures.

Neurosurgery is an example of a procedure too complicated to use a robotic arm in lieu of a surgeon’s hands, said Allen Harrison, the chief executive officer of St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. But straightforward “open procedures” — “cutting someone open and moving things around” — lend themselves to the use of robots. When operated by a surgeon, robotics tend to cause less blood loss, less pain and leave a patient less reliant on postoperative narcotics than human hands alone would, Harrison said.

The North Austin Medical Center, which is five miles from the new surgery hospital, includes the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery. About 20 percent of the North Austin facility’s surgeries are robotic, Harrison said.

St. David’s bought the new hospital property in May as part of a larger, $275 million effort to add surgical beds to an area with one of the fastest-growing senior citizen populations in the country.

David Huffstutler, the health system’s president and CEO, has said St. David’s admissions grew 6 percent last year — a big increase in an era in which health care professionals are being urged to take better care of people so they stay out of hospitals.

St. David’s executives said the new surgical hospital is designed to emphasize aesthetic considerations, such as natural light in all patients’ rooms, that are intended to boost the spirits of surgical patients.

St. David’s spent somewhere between $145 million and $150 million to buy, upgrade and equip the hospital. The property includes:

  • A 146,381-square-foot hospital.
  • An 80,000-square-foot office building.
  • 40 patient rooms.
  • 10 operating rooms.
  • A six-bedroom intensive care unit.

 

The hospital had been owned by a Dallas-based hospital group that expanded rapidly to six facilities, all of which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.


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