Cape Town - The way of the future is here at Groote Schuur Hospital, being the first public health institution in South Africa to perform robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci Xi.
Groote Schuur is now one of eight hospitals in South Africa which will be performing robotic surgeries, seven of which are in the private sector and cost R38 million each.
Robotic surgery hit SA shores in the private sector eight years ago.
Every 25 seconds, a surgeon starts this robot globally for surgeries.
It is for this reason that the Western Cape Department of Health hopes it will alleviate the backlog of surgeries which have been affected by the pandemic.
The official launch took place today in the presence of MEC of Health Nomafrench Mbombo and chief operating officer of the Western Cape Health Department, Dr Saadiq Karriem and chief executive of the hospital, Dr Bhavna Patel.
At first glance, one would think it was a scene out of the movie The Terminator or Transformers.
The da Vinci Xi system boasts four generations and is an extension of the surgeon.
The device can be used across a wide spectrum of minimally-invasive surgical procedures such as gynaecology, urology, cardiothoracic, colorectal and general surgery and is expected to reduce blood loss, infection recovery and less scarring after surgery.
Training of staff could take between four to six months.
Dr Patel said they were proud to have the robot here.
“We excited to be the first public hospital in South Africa to offer this service to our first patients,” she said.
“Not only are we the first hospital, but actually this version of the da Vinci roll-out, which is the Xi version, is the first in Africa.
‘“We remain at the cutting edge of innovation and we will do the best we can with this machine.”
Mbombo said the time was now for the evolution of surgery and would be a learning curve and tool for students.
“While we were focusing on the pandemic, and prioritising others like primary care, we forgot about the two medical schools and two of our hospital tertiary services, they render such care, which is a highly specialised care.
“Our post graduate students who have to train to offer that intervention, it was here we had the lung and the heart transplant.
“When I saw it in Medi-Clinic in Durbanville in Urology and Kingsbury, I said one day is one day.
“This is the day, it may have cost us R38 million to move with the time and evolution.
“Now we can compete with the world and that we do not leave behind other levels of care.”
Dr Samkele Salukazana, robotic surgery co-ordinator at Groote Schuur Hospital said people should not forget the surgeons were doing the operations with the robot’s assistance.
“Robotic-assisted surgery has become the new standard of care as an option for minimal invasive surgical intervention.
“This new technology allows surgeons to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision.
Dr Karriem added the robot would assist in the backlog of surgeries caused by the pandemic.
“Even despite Covid-19 pandemic, we don’t forget about the non-Covid care, a lot of our resources would have had to be focused on treating Covid cases.
“The surgical backlog is significant unfortunately and what we are trying to do is to address the backlog.
“There is another backlog like the new diagnosis of TB (tuberculosis) and HIV services.
“We had to keep the services on pause. Surgical backlog, we have plans at our big hospitals to address the backlog.
“While Covid is with us, we at WCED want to address all the backlog.”
Paul Landman, general manager for robotic surgery, Medhold, said the robot was started every 25 seconds by a surgeon globally and that more than 8 million surgeries have been done around the world.
“This is the first surgical robotic device in an academic teaching hospital,” he said.
“There are currently seven robots in South Africa, all in the private sector.
“From urology to general surgery, gynaecology and thoracic surgery.
“Since 2020, I can give you some stats, there have been over 8 and half million procedures done with the da Vinci in 67 countries.
“Every 25 seconds a surgeon starts a robot to start a procedure.”
During a demonstration using visuals and the “arms” of the robot, Chris du Plessis, Medhold clinical sales robotic surgery specialist explained to the media how the machine worked.
He said the surgeon sits at the surgeon and uses the console and has a 3d vision and showcases where the instruments are which are passed through the analyst and the arms have a remote sensor and rotates and camera.