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There's a famous quote, "People may not remember what you do, but they'll never forget how you made them feel". The staff at Virginia Gay Hospital strives to live by those words. Dr. Gene Lariviere, General Surgeon, demonstrates that personal touch every day. When the need arises for a general surgery, the procedures are basically the same no matter where you have it done. The difference is how you're treated as a person. The same patient can have a very different experience depending on where they choose to have a procedure done.
According to Dr. Lariviere, here's a step by step version of how it differs:
If you choose to have your surgery done in a bigger city, you drive at least 30 minutes to see the surgeon in his office for a consultation. Then, you schedule the surgery at the hospital, or at an outpatient surgery center. During the recovery process, you take another 30 minute drive for surgical follow up. If all is going well, and depending on the type of surgery it was, sometimes a follow up visit takes only 10 minutes. If you've just driven 30 minutes each way, that's kind of inconvenient.
If you have your surgery done at Virginia Gay Hospital:
The initial step is to visit your primary caregiver. They determine you need surgery. Next, you see the surgeon, Dr. Lariviere, at Vinton Family Medical Clinic to find out what's involved, what to expect, and to answer any questions you may have. The day of the surgery, you go to the new separate day surgery area where you'll check in and they'll take your vital signs. Next, Dr. Lariviere stops in to say hello, and make sure you don't have any final questions. After the surgery and you no longer need constant monitoring, you arrive back in the day surgery area for a short recovery period, then get in your car and go home. You come back for surgical follow up in a week or two, depending on the surgery. If you were hospitalized after the surgery, your primary caregiver stops in to your room to see to it that all is well with your general health. And, your surgeon visits to make sure the surgical area is progressing as planned. "It's much more personal care than in the big city", Dr. Lariviere explains.
"Most hospitals have gone to a 'hospitalist system'. Efficiency takes the place of personal care. They send you from specialist to specialist to specialist, back to your regular doctor who by this time doesn't know what's going on with you until your next visit. At Virginia Gay Hospital, it's basically, a 'bringing it to you' approach to medicine", Dr. Lariviere added.
Dr. Lariviere sums it up, "As I see it, the big benefit is being able to have these things done close to home. That's the most common comment from patients. They say, 'Thanks for doing this here because I didn't have to go to Cedar Rapids to see somebody, go back for surgery, go back for follow up, go back to be seen again. I got to get it all done here'. That's the big benefit that seems to be evolving here. We're not doing something bigger, better, faster than they can get it done there. We're doing it close to home."
Dr. Lariviere comes to Virginia Gay Hospital after 15 years of performing general surgery at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. He started coming to Vinton in January of 2009 once a week, and after six months, the schedule demanded that he be available at Virginia Gay on a daily basis. He has now made his home in rural Benton County.
Abdominal surgery is the main focus of the surgeries performed at Virginia Gay Hospital in Vinton. "We can serve about 90% of the people, by doing the ten things most commonly done here," Dr. Lariviere said.
Dr. Lariviere sees the personal service patients receive at Virginia Gay as one of the biggest benefits to having a general surgeon in the area rather than going to a bigger hospital that's farther away. "For instance, the University of Iowa is a huge institution. It's got tremendous capability. But if you're one person with a common problem, you're nothing but a number there. Here, you're not a number, you're a person, you're a neighbor, or you're a relative. It's personal service and it's here, close to home". Vinton resident Kurt Karr agrees, "I was a patient at a much larger hospital, and in the five major surgeries I had, I never once met the surgeon".
Another point Dr. Lariviere wants to make clear is that patients shouldn't choose a hospital based on advertisements they hear for robotic surgery. "There is no general surgical procedure that can be done any better with a robot. It's not justified. If you went to a bigger hospital, they wouldn't use a robot either," he said. "For the most common general surgeries, like gall bladders, hernias, and appendix removal, the robot is no benefit. Urological, gynecologic, cardiac surgeries have shown benefit, but for general surgery, no," he said.
Currently, Dr. Lariviere performs an average of five surgeries a week, in addition to consults, but sees that number starting to increase as word gets out that you can actually have your general surgical procedures performed at Virginia Gay Hospital. "I think what's most impressed me is that VGH has really taken a 'what's best for the community approach,' not a 'what can we get away with' approach. There's a service need in the community, now how can we address it," he added. "We can't do it all, but we can do a whole bunch of the common stuff and we can do it as good as they can do it in Cedar Rapids or Waterloo. We're here and ready to do it."