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$1m donation match helps bring robotic surgery to Durham

A new Centre of Excellence in Robotic Surgery with a revolutionary surgical robot is coming to Lakeridge Health – thanks in part to the generosity of the Verwey family and their desire to help increase access to modern surgical options to the Durham community.

“We’re very grateful to the Verwey Family and excited to open this new Centre of Excellence in Robotic Surgery at Lakeridge Health,” said Dr. John Dickie, Chief of Surgery at Lakeridge Health. “The introduction of a regional, robot-assisted surgical program and the da Vinci Surgical System to our hospital system will transform the way we offer surgery in Durham Region, especially for cancer patients.”

Along with providing patients with a safer experience and higher quality of care, this robotic surgical system will also help to lower the risk of infection, contribute to shorter hospital stays, faster recovery and reduce the potential for hospital readmissions.

da Vinci Surgical System

The da Vinci Surgical System is a minimally invasive robotic tool that acts as an extension of the surgeon operating it. The surgeon, who sits within a console in the same room as the patient and equipment, uses real-time 3D-imaging to view inside the body via the da Vinci’s camera arm. The four other arms of the robot are manipulated through hand-controls in the console that are directly linked to the equipment. The arms of the robot, which offer one surgeon the same access as two, operate in tiny, precise, and controlled movements that are beyond the capabilities of a human hand.

The Bob and Sue Verwey Family Foundation has committed to matching up to $1 million in donations to cancer care at Lakeridge Health. The Verweys, who own several businesses in Durham Region such as Owasco Volkswagen, Owasco RV Centre, and Audi Durham, are long-time community members and employers.

“At one time, I had six staff members who themselves or their loved ones were using the cancer services at Lakeridge Health,” said Bob Verwey, local business owner. “On top of our own circle of friends and family, it became obvious how much cancer was impacting the people around us. My family and I wanted to step up in a big way to help change the course of this disease. We’re matching every donation up to one million dollars to put the best technology in the hands of surgeons in Durham Region.”

400 robotic surgeries annually by year three

The Verweys pledge will encompass any donations made to Our Cancer Campaign online, through mail, phone, or in-person until the million-dollar goal is met. Thanks to this commitment, the da Vinci Surgical Robot is set to arrive at Lakeridge Health in the coming months, and surgeries could begin in the New Year. Once operational, Lakeridge Health aims to perform nearly 400 robotic surgeries annually by year three of implementation, a figure that will eliminate the need for over 500 long-stay patient beds. And by year five of the robotics program, Lakeridge Health anticipates the department will have performed 1,616 robotic procedures.

The Centre of Robotic Surgery will have an important impact on cancer care and treatment in specialities such as urology, gynaecology, as well as thoracic and colorectal care. Approximately 1,700 patients are undergoing cancer-related surgery each year at Lakeridge Health and cancer cases alone are expected to increase by 58 per cent in the next two decades. With one in two in Canadians being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, it is imperative that new and emerging technologies are put in place to provide more and better options to families.

Specialist training

“We’re looking to begin the specialist training required to operate the da Vinci robot,” said Dr. Dickie. “There are only 32 da Vinci Surgical systems across Canada with the closest robots more than one hour drive away in any direction.”

The da Vinci Surgical System funding is part of the $20 Million goal of Our Cancer Campaign, Lakeridge Health Foundation’s ambitious campaign to advance cancer care in Durham and beyond. The foundation has committed $5.1 million to bring the equipment to Lakeridge Health and implement the program with an exciting pledge already in play thanks to the Verwey Family.

Community members looking to take advantage of the million-dollar match can learn more and make their donations at

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