by Randy Pellis
FULTON – All it took was a year of planning, $1.5 million in funding, 6,150 square feet of empty space, 100 days of construction, and, oh, one other little detail: finding two top orthopedic surgeons willing to move here, and just like that, Oswego Health created quite possibly the finest orthopedic care center in central New York.
That dream became a working reality Tuesday as Oswego Health officially opened its Center for Orthopedic Care within the Fulton Medical Center, formerly the A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital, at 510 S. Fourth St. in Fulton.
“This is just one more wonderful piece of great news coming out of the city of Fulton. There’s so much momentum right now,” said Katie Toomey, executive director of the Greater Oswego/Fulton Chamber of Commerce in her remarks to a large crowd gathered for the Center’s opening ceremony held in its warmly-decorated lobby.
Michael Harlovic, president and CEO of Oswego Health added, “We’ve heard quite loudly that residents do not want to travel to the Syracuse area for exceptional orthopedic services, and I can confidently tell you Oswego Health has recruited two of the best orthopedic surgeons, and we have built the most attractive and efficient suite, with which to provide this specialized care.”
That care will be in the hands of three orthopedic surgeons, two of them new to Oswego Health.
Doctors Michael Diaz and Greg Keller will join Dr. John Ayres in, according to Dr. Diaz, “covering the whole spectrum of orthopedic procedures, covering about 90 percent of all orthopedic procedures. The only thing we don’t do is complicated hand and spine (surgery).
“This truly will be a state-of-the-art facility,” he said. “I’ve worked at many facilities, and I have to say this really is probably the finest facility that I’ve seen. No expense has been spared, and everything will be up-to-date, with the latest quality x-ray, we’ll have over 15 exam rooms, and certainly the nursing care will be top notch as well.”
Dr. Diaz, coming to Oswego from the Oneonta/Cooperstown part of New York where he was part of the Bassett Healthcare system, has expanded his expertise in knee and hip replacements into the modern world of robotics. He has been trained in robotically- assisted orthopedic surgery, specifically, half-knee and full-knee replacements and was the first surgeon in central New York to perform such surgery.
His interests and technical expertise also extend into other modern techniques he hopes to bring to Oswego Health. He has developed a procedure involving the use of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma and has employed it in over 100 knee replacement surgeries. He predicts that “20 years from now, there probably will be no joint replacements, and that everything will probably be biologics to some extent.”
Dr. Greg Keller joins Oswego Health’s orthopedic team coming from Phoenix, Arizona where he was director of the state’s largest trauma hospital. He has 20 years of experience in Level 1 trauma.
From his first night on call at Oswego Hospital, he was able to treat a case he said would previously have been sent to a larger facility. “But,” he said, “having been in trauma care all those years, it was second nature for me to be able to take care of that case. So, we started doing it, and I think everyone was a little shocked at first that we were doing a case like that, but we were able to efficiently and appropriately take care of the patient as per standard care. And we’re continuing to follow her and hoping that she does well.”
Dr. Keller specializes in shoulder and elbow surgery, knee replacements and sports medicine care. He also provides fracture trauma care of the upper and lower extremities.
Others played a large role in the realization of this Center, and Michael Harlovic was quick to mention Chris Mitchell, executive director of Oswego Health Physician Care P. C.
Harlovic praised Mitchell as the man “who originally envisioned this project.”
Mitchell, who spoke of the new Center as “the last unused space of the $26 million renovation project Oswego Health did in 2009,” went on to say, “What we have here is a space that’s second to none. We have great quality here, great outcomes, and we have staff that supports the surgeons well.”
And then there’s the highlight of the Center’s equipment: the $156,000 digital x-ray machine housed within a completely lead-lined room with a lead-lined door all tested and approved by a physicist who determined there was absolutely no radiation escaping that room. The machine is considered top-of-the-line by the Center’s surgeons and administrators.
It’s run by 27-year veteran of x-ray technology, Stephanie Benavidez. Over the years, she has acquired a variety of x-ray expertise in both regular and specialized x-ray, CAT scans, operating room, and now orthopedic x-ray.
As I left the x-ray room, we exchanged pleasantries. I said it was nice meeting her, but I hoped never to see her professionally. She said she hoped so too but then said “though I wouldn’t mind the business.”
I said perhaps I could come in with something less serious, maybe a bruise. “Bruise is good,” she laughed.
Now that’s the kind of care you just don’t get everywhere.