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St. Joseph's Hospital CEO and President Skip Gjolberg addresses the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur Tuesday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

St. Joseph’s Hospital to be the second CAH in W.Va. capable of performing robotic surgery

BUCKHANNON – St. Joseph’s Hospital will soon be the second Critical Access Hospital performing robotic surgery in the state of West Virginia.

President and CEO of WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon Skip Gjolberg attended the May 2 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting to announce a new robotic surgery program. He also invited the community to get involved in the hospital’s grassroots advocacy efforts to sustain healthcare in the Buckhannon-Upshur community.

“We are the second Critical Access Hospital in the state and the first WVU Critical Access Hospital doing a robotic surgery program,” Gjolberg said. “It’s typically used by general surgeons, and those surgeons along with gynecologists and urologists are the main ones who use this, and it allows for smaller incisions, less pain and a faster recovery.”

(‘Critical Access Hospital’ is a category designed to protect rural hospitals’ long-term financial viability and maintain the availability of essential health care services.)

The St. Joseph’s Hospital Board of Directors will receive a sneak peek at the da Vinci Xi surgical system later in the month, and the first surgery using the system will be performed at the end of the month.

“I was talking to a CEO of a hospital up in Minnesota who’s had a robot for a long time, and they were buying their second robot,” Gjolberg said. “They get a lot of farmers who come in with hernias, and these farmers can’t miss work – cows have to be fed, fields need to be done – and when they would get a traditional hernia repair, they’d be out of work for a little while.”

Gjolberg said robotic surgery had changed that.  

“They can get a robotic repair done and can be back to work, I think, in about two, three, four days, so they get a lot of farmers making the trip to get a robotic hernia repair, so they can be back on their tractors, doing what they need to be doing,” he said.

Gjolberg also asked Rotary members to help rebuild their grassroots advocacy team.

“I’m looking for volunteers who are interested in helping me when there’s some piece of legislation [at the state or national level] that’s being considered that’s either great for us or terrible for us,” Gjolberg said. “I try to get my grassroots group to pick up the phone or send an email or do something because if I call our legislators, they kind of listen, but if two, three, five, 10, 20, 50, 100 people call, they take notice.”

More information about the grassroots advocacy team that hospital administrators are currently trying to rebuild may be found in a previous My Buckhannon story here.

Gjolberg also apologized to any community members who have experienced long wait times at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Room lately.

“Our ER has really gotten busy; it’s grown in volume, and we’re seeing a lot of volume come over from Elkins,” Gjolberg said. “I apologize if you’ve had to wait longer than usual because of the lines. It has jumped up significantly for us.”

Gjolberg also said the hospital is aiming to reopen PromptCare soon following its closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We closed it during COVID because the ER was getting overrun, but we are working to reopen that soon,” he said. “I don’t have a date yet, but we are going to get our PromptCare open. We want you to have an alternative, because not everything is an emergency-room-level visit.”

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