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GOWN UP to raise $10m for Surrey Memorial Hospital upgrades

The money will be used to upgrade 10 operating rooms, buy cutting-edge equipment and recruit more top-notch surgeons
Nurses Bassam Adlouni and Heather Ballantyne tend to a ‘patient’ in a mock operating room in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Modern surgery isn’t quite at the level Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy would perform two centuries hence, in Star Trek. But they’re getting there. Surrey Memorial Hospital’s surgeons are boldly going where doctors in our not-too-distant past had not gone before.

The Surrey Hospital Foundation has since 1992 raised more than $135 million, and is the largest funder of health care, besides government, for local families through its support of Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre.

It has kicked off a new major fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $10 million to renovate and upgrade 10 operating rooms at Surrey Memorial Hospital, as well as bring the most innovative medical technology and equipment to SMH and recruit more top surgical talent.

It’s time for generous donors to GOWN UP, they say. That’s the name of the fundraiser the foundation is calling a “major operation.”

Surrey Memorial is the busiest hospital for surgery in the Fraser Health region, which serves more than 1.8 million residents. The hospital offers special surgical services in the areas of thoracic, retinal, urology, ENT (ears, nose and throat), general surgery, ophthalmology, gynecology and orthopedics.

The foundation showcased a mock operating room on Oct. 9, at City Centre 2, in the health and technology district across from the hospital in Whalley, to launch its campaign.

Jane Adams, CEO of SHF, said Tuesday that $5.1 million of the $10-million goal has already been raised.

“We already had $5 million,” she explained, for infrastructure and investments, to renovate the rooms. “The balance $5 million, that we’re focusing on now, is around innovative equipment.”

Jane Adams. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Is there a deadline?

“As soon as possible,” Adams said. “Construction has started on the rooms, so at least we have half of the money to contribute to that. Equipment we continue to need as we go along. We were hoping we would have everything in by pledges by the end of 2020. We’ll see.

“When you grow in a region and a city that grows by more than 1,000 people a month, recruiting and retaining the best talent for the health of your people is critical,” she said. “Our hospital has the busiest surgical centre in all of the Fraser Valley, and our rooms really need an upgrade to facilitate the more than 1.8 million residents in our region,” Adams said.

“Our surgical innovations and world-class surgeons are only possible because of the tremendous support of our generous donors whose contributions have enabled us to purchase world-class medical technologies and attract the best surgical talent from around the world.”

Dr. Cal Andreou, chief of surgery at SMH, noted the ultimate goal is to meet the “best standards possible in the world.”

Surrey Memorial Hospital has 68 surgeons, with 10 specialties, and in 2018 some 21,240 surgeries were performed under its roof. Of those, more than 60 per cent were for cancer and 1,200 of the patients were children.

Dr. Cal Andreou. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

“Medicine is like any business. To retain talent is challenging, and it’s competitive,” Andreou said. “What most people don’t know is that Surrey Memorial Hospital has some of the most innovative surgical procedures in the country. In fact, we have one of the best thoracic surgery programs in Canada, and we are the first hospital in Western Canada to offer ground-breaking new procedures in esophageal disease and lung cancer.”

“Our thoracic team,” he said, “is one of the best in Canada, likely the best in B.C.”

Dr. James Bond, chief of thoracic surgery at SMH, has been practising medicine there for 15 years now. When he came to Surrey, they were already starting into more advanced surgical procedures but the first couple of operations Bond said he did involved big incisions, long hospital stays, “lots of pain, slow recovery, lots of weeks and months before they could return to work.

“And then we started doing more and more minimally invasive procedures as the foundation and the hospital invested resources into equipment and technologies that allowed us to advance our procedures.”

For example, an esophagectomy for cancer 15 years ago involved “about a seven- to a nine-hour day,” he said, with the patient recovering in hospital for about two weeks.

“Now we do it in about three or four hours, little tiny holes, they go home in about seven days, they’re eating one day post-op, two days post-op, which is a huge change. One day maybe we’ll be doing them without any hole. We’re getting close to doing some procedures that way.”

About seven years ago, Bond said, SMH surgeons started doing minimally invasive lobectomies and are coming up on 1,000 operations to date.

“We have a very low mortality of less than 0.7 per cent, which is a phenomenally low mortality rate, and that’s really a testament to the team and technology investment in infrastructure,” he said.

The surgeons used to take out “a whole lot of the stomach” to remove a very small tumor that “behaved a little malignant, but it wasn’t too bad,” he noted.

“Its location forced us to take out a vast majority of the stomach, in a major operation, and we conceived of an operation where we could do this through little tiny holes, and go inside the stomach, remove the tumor from inside the stomach, pull it out, close the little holes that we put in the stomach and send them home in a couple of days and preserve most of the stomach anatomy.

“We keep advancing these techniques,” Bond said, and “when you do that, you can recruit better minds and a whole lot of other team members.”

He explained how they perform right lobe lobectomy for lung cancer.

“Not so long ago,” he recalled, surgeons would have to make big cuts, spread the ribs, and cause a lot of trauma to nerves resulting in 25 per cent incidence of chronic pain that went beyond a year. The patients, he said, would take about six months to nine months to return to work, and they’d be in hospital for this kind of operation for five to seven days.

“Now we put three or four little holes,” he said.

“These patients have very little pain with this, and they go home very quickly, and they go back to work very quickly. It’s a major improvement in overall care.”

How you can help

A Celebration of Care Gala, to support surgery initiatives at SMH, will be held on Feb. 22, 2020, at the Aria Banquet Hall at 12350 Pattullo Place.

This will be a black-tie event, with bright lights and a red carpet, that’s expected to draw more than 600 community leaders and medical luminaries. Email for more details.

Meantime, you can also make a donation online at

Adams told the Now-Leader that a woman dropped by last Thursday with a cheque for $10,000 toward the cause.

“This woman and her husband were grateful patients of James Bond,” Adams said. “They won back-to-back lotteries, and so they came in and made a $10,000 donation. It’s such a lovely story. They wanted to help out.”

For help to set up a donation, contact Kim St. Pierre at 604-585-5666, extension 772739. Or, you can mail in a donation or deliver it in person at the Foundation’s office, in the North Lobby of SMH at 13750 96th Ave., Surrey, B.C., V3V 1Z2. It’s open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Donations by mail should be addressed to the attention of Azra Hussain, chief operating officer.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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