Cutting edge advancements at area hospitals
photo by Wendy Carlson
Some medical facilities around Connecticut are thriving, thanks in part to streamlined services, preventative health classes, and advances in medicine. “We’re entering a whole new era of patient care,” says Dr. Thomas Koobatian, New Milford Hospsital’s executive director, strolling through the sparkling new Arnhold Emergency Department. “What we’re doing is so innovative, so state-of-the-art. I come to work every day so upbeat.”
Since merging with Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals in 2010, under the umbrella of the Western Connecticut Health Network, $58 million has been invested in medical technology, building additions and renovations at New Milford Hospital.
There’s a new focus on becoming a preventative medicine hub, with programs like Strong Women, Strong Bones, Stress Reduction & Relaxation Training, and Therapeutic Touch. Food plays a big part in health care there as well. Its Plow-to-Plate initiative, which involves making healthy, organic meals sourced from local farmers and a new vegetable garden planted on a hospital rooftop, draws locals in for lunch, like Mayor Pat Murphy, who was enjoying her favorite, cranberry chicken salad, as we passed by. Noting that the population of people 65 and older is expected to grow by 50 percent between 2010 and 2020, Dr. Koobatian says the hospital has also begun Senior Suppers, in cooperation with senior centers from New Milford, Sherman, Bridgewater, Roxbury, New Fairfield, Kent, Washington, and Brookfield.
Says Dr. Koobatian, “Week-nights, seniors can come to the hospital and have a delicious, super-healthy, three-course meal for $5. How can you beat that?”
Consolidation is what’s happening at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington. A new Center for Youth & Families opened down the road from the main building, pooling many mental-health resources into a central location. “It’s great for the patients, and it’s great for us as a hospital to be able to serve their needs,” says spokesman Tim Le-Bouthillier. The center opened in March as an outpatient program called Connections IOP, for children and their families affected by autism and other disorders. “This is not a good time for many community hospitals,” he says. “We were surprised when the North Adams Regional Hospital in Berkshire closed. We’re here for the long haul.”
The occupational therapy department joined with The Lions Club in April to open a new Low Vision Center. Says Le-Bouthillier: “This is a really cool, innovative service that can help in ways that regular eye doctors can’t,” adding that the center provides patients with “talking and tactile products, giant magnifying glasses, whatever it takes to help them.”
Another innovative—maybe the only one of its kind in Connecticut—is being offered by Dr. John Dunleavy in his newly opened Western Connecticut Orthopedic Surgical Center in Danbury. It’s a new kind of partial knee replacement surgery, done on an outpatient basis. “This marks the first time that patients in the area do not have to go to the hospital to have this advanced procedure,” Dunleavy says. “They can come to our new surgical center, have their partial knee procedure performed in a highly specialized orthopedic environment, go home the same day, and have all their follow-up care right here. It’s pretty progressive.”
Dr. Andrew Bazos of Western Connecticut Orthopedic Specialists is another surgeon offering innovations in knee, ankle, and spinal procedures. With knees and ankles, it used to be that if you have a torn cartilage due to a sports injury, doctors would drill a hole near it and hope that the bone regrows itself. Now, Dr. Bazos uses one of three options for optimum results: one, taking a small piece of healthy cartilage from a non-critical part of the knee, growing that cartilage in the lab, then implanting the cells back into defects in the knee; two, taking “cores” or “dowels” of healthy cartilage and moving them into portions of the knee that have suffered trauma; and, three, using cadaver tissue.
Dr. Bazos, who is also medical director for Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium (do they know he is a Red Sox fan?) is also on the scientific advisory board of a breakthrough technology called Difusiontech, which involves orthopedic implants made of plastic infused with silver ions. “The silver ions create a sterile environment that helps bone formation and healing,” Dr. Bazos relates. “It’s a really big deal. You’re going to see people healing a lot more quickly than they used to.”