TAMPA — Stationed at a surgeon console in an operating room, Dr. Sharona Ross stares into a 3D display visor while her hands grip and command two silver control handles.
Six feet away, four robotic arms respond. One pierces a suture needle through the skin of a red grape lying on a plate on a surgical gurney. The white metal arm delicately guides the suture in and out of the berry before neatly trimming off the slack.
Wednesday’s robotic surgery demonstration displayed the capabilities of the new $300 million surgery center that will open early next month at AdventHealth Tampa hospital.
The six-story Taneja Center for Surgery at AdventHealth includes a new 24-bed critical care unit, 96 private patient rooms and 18 operating rooms that will allow surgeons to operate on more patients with heart and digestive problems, neurological issues and to perform surgeries to arrest cancerous tumors.
The investment is intended to help modernize AdventHealth Tampa, the company’s flagship hospital on E Fletcher Avenue. Formerly known as Florida Hospital Tampa, AdventHealth acquired the hospital campus across from the University of South Florida in 2010.
“It’s a step to compete and grow in the market place and to serve the growing population of Florida,” said Larry Bagby, assistant vice president of support services.
The 300,000 square-foot center was built with an eye toward current and future technological advances, particularly the increasing use of robotic surgery, which was barely more than optimistic theory when operating rooms were being designed at the 1960s-era hospital.
The hospital’s old surgery rooms — some as small as 450 square feet — barely have enough room for robotic arms and medical-grade monitors that have become fixtures of surgical procedures.
Each of the 18 new operating rooms is a spacious 750 square feet. Instead of having to be wheeled into place, high definition monitors are mounted to overhead booms that can be positioned wherever the surgical team needs them. It’s not uncommon to have five robot units in one operating room, said Dr. Doug Ross, the hospital’s chief medical officer, meaning space is at a premium. He is not related to Dr. Sharona Ross, the surgeon.
“By a surgeon’s perspective, these are huge,” he said. “You really need to have a lot of floor space in order to accommodate this and we don’t know what the future is going to bring.”
The operating rooms are all fitted with indigo-colored lighting that helps keep the rooms sterile. The special lighting, unlike ultra-violet lighting, is not harmful to the eye and is intensified when operating rooms are empty.
Four of the new rooms include table-side pathology services, meaning surgeons can obtain critical information about the tumors they are operating on almost instantly.
A specialist in robotic and keyhole incision operations for conditions of the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, pancreas, gallbladder and liver, Dr. Sharona Ross was one of the first surgeons to use robotic surgery to remove diseased organs through a single incision rather than traditional open surgery. Those patients can heal from surgery more quickly.
The use of robotics effectively gives her four arms. She is no longer reliant on someone holding the endoscope, the camera that surgeons uses during keyhole surgery, and can control three other operating instruments.
Instead of standing over a patient, she’s seated at a console in a posture that is more forgiving during lengthy procedures. If she needs a break or to check her notes, she can step away knowing the robot arms won’t move an inch or grow tired if applying pressure to tissue. She said the technology allows her to proctor other surgeons almost anywhere in the world.
Ross has operated in traditional hospital operating rooms crowded with machines and wires everywhere. Having a room designed for the use of robotics means vital space is left around the patient for other doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists to do their jobs.
“There’s no clashing of all these entities,” she said. “It really makes a huge difference.”
The center is named after Mandeep Taneja, a 44-year-old who died in 2018, five years after being diagnosed with a brain cancer called Glioblastoma. His parents, Jugal and Manju Taneja donated an undisclosed sum — the largest ever made to AdventHealth’s West Florida Division — toward construction costs.
Mandeep Taneja spent his final 10 months at the hospital’s intensive care unit. His family took turns staying with him so he was never alone. To make it easier for other families to do the same, the center includes four family suites with a shower, fold-down bed and microwave so patients’ families can stay next door to them.
The surgery center will open in phases and the first operations are set to start Oct. 12.