Biz Buzz: A daVinci joins Sierra Vista hospital

Assistant Surgeon Dr. Kurt Haupt, left, demonstrates surgery with the Da Vinci system at Sierra Vista Hospital in SLO .   photo Jayson Mellom 2-09-10
Assistant Surgeon Dr. Kurt Haupt, left, demonstrates surgery with the Da Vinci system at Sierra Vista Hospital in SLO . photo Jayson Mellom 2-09-10 The Tribune

On Tuesday, Dr. Elaine Yin of Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center performed the hospital’s first procedure using the daVinci Surgical System — a $1.8 million robot that a physician remotely controls to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures.

Yin looked at a 3-D image of the surgical area as the daVinci translated her movements into precise, 360-degree movements of surgical instruments inside the patient. She removed the uterus of Karon Cushing by making five 1-centimeter incisions. In the past, these abdominal hysterectomies have involved 12- to 14-centimeter incisions. Smaller incisions mean reduced trauma to the body and faster recovery time.

Sierra Vista is the only hospital between Santa Barbara and Salinas to offer the technology, which the hospital expects to use for urological, gynecological, ear, nose and throat, and other general surgical procedures.

According to the company that manufactures the daVinci, 72 hospitals in California have the surgical system. Sierra Vista made the decision to acquire the machine because of physician interest and reports that patients were leaving the area for complicated procedures such as prostate surgery, according to hospital representatives. Use of the daVinci does not affect the cost of procedures and may reduce costs due to shorter hospital stays.

Cushing, 56, of San Luis Obispo asked to delay anesthetic until she was in the operating room so she could see the robot, which she described as a “Star Wars octopus” with several long arms. She wasn’t nervous about being the robot’s first patient. “I did it because there are more people that are going to need (surgeries), and the docs need to start using it,” she said.

— Julia Hickey

Housing Coalition picks 2010 officers

The Workforce Housing Coalition of San Luis Obispo County has elected its officers for 2010.

The organization’s officers are Chairman Dana Lilley of the county Planning and Building Department, Vice Chairman Jerry Rioux of the San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund, Treasurer Donna Lewis and Secretary Valerie Steenson.

Board members include Marguerite Bader, Jerry Bunin of the Central Coast Home Builders Association, Michael Codron, Steve Delmartini, Charlie Fruit, Carol Hatley, Zeljka Howard, Ermina Karim of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Rafferty of the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, Bruce Silverberg and Scott Smith.

Advisory board members are: Carl Dudley, Leslie Halls, Adam Hill, Steve Ingels, Annette Montoya, county Supervisor Jim Patterson and Craig Smith.

The coalition represents nonprofit housing providers, private builders, government agencies, environmental organizations, small businesses, bankers, real estate agents and academic institutions.

The organization’s mission is to use public education and advocacy to encourage the creation and retention of more housing units in the county for households earning less than 160 percent of the county median income of $70,800 for a family of four.

— Julia Hickey