Absence of surgical robot leaves new Royal Adelaide Hospital ‘dumbed down’, SA Opposition says

Demonstration of robotic surgery

The lack of surgical equipment to perform delicate keyhole surgery at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital has rendered it a “world-class building with second-class medical equipment”, the South Australian Opposition says.

The so-called da Vinci robot is used for prostate, gynaecological, head, neck and complex hernia repairs.

Under a health deal, the public hospital’s patients receive access to surgery at Saint Andrew’s Hospital, a private healthcare facility.

Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade said between 2004 and 2013 the RAH had a “dedicated” robot.

He accused the Government of “dumbing down” equipment.

“The Labor Government is building the world’s most expensive hospital. They have found robots to deliver food but they can’t afford robots to deliver surgery,” he said.

He added: “What we are getting is a world-class building with second-class medical equipment.”

Need for da Vinci robot ‘not pressing’

RAH Professor Guy Maddern said the hospital accessed the machine at Saint Andrews two days a week, and if the demand arose he was hopeful the new public hospital would get its own machine.

“At the moment, we do not have a pressing need to have a robot at the Royal Adelaide,” he said.

He said the machine was worth about $3 million and each surgery cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

Professor Maddern said a new machine was “coming online” at Ashford Private Hospital which would ease the demand on the Saint Andrew’s robot.

“At the moment, everyone who needs a robot is getting a robot [at Saint Andrew’s] and we are also looking at increasing the range of operations that can be provided with robot,” he said.

“And when we have enough operations that need the robot we will get one.”

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons South Australian spokeswoman Sonja Latzel said doctors were concerned about patients’ access to the technology.

“There are a lot of patients, one in nine men will get prostate cancer at some time in their lifetime … many of those will requirement significant surgery for that,” she said.