Biz Buzz: Sierra Vista gets tool for surgeons

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has a new technological tool for surgeons.

The hospital installed the $1.8 million da Vinci surgical system last week. Sierra Vista is the only hospital between Santa Barbara and Salinas with the robotic technology, which enables surgeons to do complex, minimally invasive procedures.

“Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is proud to continue to invest in the health of our community,” said Candy Markwith, Sierra Vista’s chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. “By bringing state-of-the-art technology generally offered only at academic-based medical centers in large metropolitan areas, our community is able to stay closer to home and not have to compromise on quality or the most up-to-date technology.”

Ron Yukelson, hospital spokesman, said the da Vinci system will be used primarily by urologists and ob-gyn surgeons to perform such procedures as prostatectomies and hysterectomies. However, there are also applications for general surgery as well as cardiac surgery, he said.

Surgeons will be trained to use the system after the first of the year, and the first surgery cases will begin in about a month.

With the da Vinci system, the robot does not do the surgery. Surgeons operate while seated at a console viewing a 3-D image of the surgical field. They grasp the master controls below the display, their hands and wrists positioned relative to their eyes. The system translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into precise movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

“These are procedures that the doctors have already done many times,” Yukelson said. “It’s giving them the ability to do more minimally invasive procedures that have smaller incisions, less blood loss and quicker recovery time.”

The hospital, he said, had been looking to invest in the system for more than a year, discussing the benefits with physicians.

About 1,000 da Vinci systems are in hospitals throughout the United States. Sierra Vista has the newest model, which rolled out in April. — Julie Lynem

Contractors subject to new regulations

Several new laws affecting building contractors took effect on New Year’s Day. Contractors working without a license from the state contractors board may be punished with a $5,000 fine and/or six months in County Jail. Repeat offenses will mean higher fines and more jail time — up to one year — according to Venus Stromberg, spokeswoman for the California Contractors License Board.

California codes require that all home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must be done by a licensed contractor. The bill also amends the code to include that anybody who uses an unlicensed contractor is a victim entitled to restitution, regardless of whether he or she knew the contractor was unlicensed.

Another new law ensures that consumers are notified if a mechanic’s lien is placed on their property. Contractors, subcontractors or materials suppliers who are not paid for their work on a home improvement project are entitled to file what is called a mechanic’s lien to force payment.

— Melanie Cleveland