Hospital campaign funds leading-edge tech

Foundation aims to raise $1.8 million in 14 weeks

Roy Anthonisen

On most days Dr. Rusty Ritenour’s work space is the size of a thumb nail.

Working at Royal Jubilee Hospital as an eye surgeon, Ritenour performs a variety of surgeries on hundreds of patients every year.

More recently, Ritenour has been using state-of-the-art technology called a phacoemulsification machine, to work on a person’s eye.

The machine, which is controlled by Ritenour’s foot, does three things at once – it keeps the eye inflated with specialized solution, it removes fluid with a vacuum and it emulsifies things like a cataract. It can be used in cataract and glaucoma surgeries, as well as Ritenour’s specialty, corneal transplant surgery.

Traditionally during corneal transplants, surgeons would make an incision in the eye and replace the entire cornea, even if only a section was damaged. However, the new machine allows surgeons to take just one cell layer of the cornea and replace it with tissues from a donor.

Using the machine anywhere from 14 to 16 times a day, “not a single suture is placed,” he says.

The technology is minimally invasive and helps to ensure a better outcome, quicker recovery time and better vision in a shorter time. Most people can be at home in their beds the same day as the surgery and can enjoy a walk with family after a week.

Now, the Victoria Hospitals Foundation is trying to bring more of that state-of-the-art technology to Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals.

Earlier this week, the foundation kicked off its fall campaign to raise $1.8 million for 72 pieces of leading-edge surgical equipment – including two new phacoemulsification machines – over the next 14 weeks.

The equipment will benefit 14 surgical specialties in both hospitals, including cardiac, orthopedic, eye and neurosurgeries, and will help shorten recovery times, decrease hospital stays and improve patient outcomes.

“There’s nothing more exciting as someone who works with their hands to pick up a new set of tools that works better than your old set of tools,” Ritenour said, noting between the 11 eye surgeons, they did 5,800 eye surgeries last year alone.

“It reinvigorates you as a surgeon, it inspires you and the team you’re working with that ‘hey, we’re providing better care here.’”

Dr. Paul Whelan, executive medical director of surgical services for Island Health, said the new equipment will help improve the overall care of patients.

“Ultimately the most important thing we care for is the well-being of our patients. To achieve that goal, our surgical teams need to perform procedures using the latest techniques,” he said.

“Funding through the Victoria Hospitals Foundations will allow us to have specialized equipment to do just that.”

For more information or to donate to the campaign visit victoriahf.ca or call 250-519-1750.