Roy Anthonisen

Campaign raising money for hospital equipment

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

On most days Dr. Rusty Ritenour’s work space is only 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 new state-of-the-art technology called a phacoemulsification machine, to work on a person’s eye, which is generally the size of a thumb nail.

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

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

“We’re just transplanting what’s diseased into what’s missing from that patient,” said Ritenour, adding he uses the machine anywhere from 14 to 16 times a day. “Not a single suture is placed.”

The technology is minimally invasive and helps to ensure a better outcome, quicker recovery time and better vision in a shorter period of time. Most people can be at home in their beds the same day as the surgery or can go out for a walk with the 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,’ said Ritenour, 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.