Copley Hospital Surgical Center Replaces 38-Year-Old Operating Rooms

Jun 23, 2017

This weekend, Morrisville's Copley Hospital is moving into a new $12.5 million surgical center. The new wing will replace the hospital's undersized and out-of-date operating rooms.

The James and Mary Louise Carpenter Surgical Center includes three operating rooms, a procedure area and a family waiting area, among other patient and work spaces. The new wing comprises one-fifth of the overall space in this rural, 25-bed critical access hospital.

The number of operating rooms at Copley isn't changing, but CEO Art Mathisen says the hospital has outgrown its old operating rooms, which were built in 1979. Besides being too small, he says the former surgical center was decentralized and becoming outdated.

"The waiting area is one part of the hospital. The ORs, which are very small, are in another part," he says of the old set-up. "And it just doesn't accommodate modern technology."

Mathisen, who is a triathlete, has a sports metaphor for the hospital's newest addition.

"We have a world-class staff that provides tremendous care, surgical care, for our patients," he says. "If you have a world-class cyclist riding a 1979 bicycle, he or she still is going to do a good job. But should they really be riding a 1979 bicycle? They should be riding the modern 2017 bicycle."

At a ceremony this week (l to r) Copley Hospital Trustee Nancy Putnam, VP of Community Relations Leah Hollenberger, Board Chair Lainie Nichols, Chief of Surgery Dr. Bryan Huber, Senator Richard Westman and CEO Art Mathisen cut the ribbon to the James and Mary Louise Surgical Center at Copley Hospital.
Credit Copley Hospital

Mathisen says Copley doesn't have any plans to expand the surgical services it offers. In fact, with 20,000 square feet of new space to heat and maintain, he says the center could have a negative impact on the hospital's bottom line. But, he says, the addition is about improving the facilities so his staff can be at the top of its game.

Some of the large pieces of equipment that are standard in operating rooms today weren't around nearly 40 years ago, when Copley's old operating rooms were designed. For example, Mathisen says he observed a recent operation where the surgeon needed a mobile CT scanner.

"He's putting a screw into an ankle and wants to be able to see that on the screen," Mathisen recalls. "And so we called the X-ray tech in and they came in with their equipment and everybody was basically up against the wall, barely fitting."

Michael Babcock, Copley's director of perioperative services and anesthesia, stands in one of the hospital's three spacious new operating rooms.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Mathisen says the new operating rooms will have dedicated space for larger modern equipment, clearing up the current safety hazard of cords and wires from mobile equipment lying across the floor.

Jeff Tieman, president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, says Vermont hospitals have a long history of collaboration, and that improvements, even at small regional hospitals like Copley, benefit the entire state network.

"Any time we improve the healthcare infrastructure at any hospital in Vermont, we are doing something for the entire state," says Tieman.

An anonymous donor had the center named in memory of James and Mary Louise Carpenter, who were longtime summer residents of Greensboro. That gift was part of a three-point-two-million-dollar capital campaign that wrapped up this week.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

When asked if the new surgical center will give Copley a competitive edge over other regional Vermont hospitals, Mathisen says he thinks people make their health care choices based more on providers than facilities. He notes that, until now, Copley hasn't had a new surgical center as a draw.

"And yet our patients still have been coming here for their surgical care," he says. "More so because of the physicians and the nurses and the X-ray techs and the surg techs and all the other staff that provide that care. So I think that will, regardless of the newness of your facility, be what pulls patients to your facility - is the care that's provided, at the end of the day."

The space from the former operating rooms will be used to expand the hospital's birthing center and cafeteria.