While rural hospitals across the state are battling to keep their doors open, the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital is opening new doors’this time to their newly-revived surgical suite. After more than nine years since surgeries were performed at the local hospital on a routine basis, the staff at the local hospital performed the first official procedure in its surgical ward less than two weeks ago. A relatively minor procedure, the first surgery went off without a glitch. With rural hospitals becoming less specialized, surgery in a hospital like Brady’s is becoming less and less common. The Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital, however, has been working for the past several years to diversify its capabilities, fully utilize its resources and offer something more to McCulloch County residents. “We have a surgical staff that has impeccable credentials, one of whom lives here locally,” said hospital assistant administrator Clay Vogel. “We have a modern, up-to-date surgical ward and a staff that is in full support of the program.” Two board certified general surgeons, Dr. Thomas Noonan and Dr. Jay Stauffer, will be performing the procedures at the hospital. With the assistance of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Charles Buchanan, the team is now seeing patients for various endoscopy and outpatient procedures. To date, surgical procedures are being scheduled one day each week and the schedule will be adjusted as demand increases. Endoscopy procedures have been actively performed in the local hospital for the past several months utilizing a team of nurses and equipment who travel from the Coleman hospital. Endoscope procedures such as colonoscopies are of the more common procedures. Dr. Noonan, a retired surgeon from Port Arthur, moved to McCulloch County seven years ago with his wife, Lori, is a registered nurse. Board certified in general surgery, Dr. Noonan completed a residency in general surgery after which he did training in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. This training qualified him to practice general surgery and chest and peripheral vascular surgery which he did while in Port Arthur. After being in family practice for a short time here in McCulloch County, he decided to limit his practice to surgery. Based in Fredericksburg, Dr. Stauffer is a surgeon whose practice includes surgical oncology, laparoscopic surgery (such as anti-reflux surgery, colon, hernias and spleen), stereotactic breast biopsy, ultrasound guided breast biopsy, laser surgery and endocrine surgery. Dr. Stauffer has been making physician referred appointments at the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital since January 2000, and he is currently on staff as a clinical associate professor with the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Following medical school and a residency at the University of Kansas, he completed an oncology fellowship in San Antonio, studying cancer related procedures. Having handled most surgical services at the Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, the new surgical suites at the hospital will give area residents the ability to have many procedures performed at the local hospital. “Now that we are capable of performing these procedures here in this hospital, people in the area won’t need to go to San Angelo or somewhere else to have things done,” said Dr. Stauffer. “Our goal is to provide an ambulatory surgery center for this area that will serve the needs of the community.” Heading up the operating room nursing staff is Toni Keltz, a registered nurse who recently moved to McCulloch County from Slaton with her husband, Terry. Prior to coming to Brady, she served as a surgical nurse in a plastic surgery clinic. She has also had nursing experience in cardiac and neurosurgery operating rooms. “We are very fortunate to have Mrs. Keltz as our head surgical nurse,” said Dr. Noonan. “There is not a hospital in the state that would not be proud to have her on staff.” Reviving the surgical suite at the local hospital has been the combined effort of a host of individuals connected to the hospital. Led by hospital administrator Windell McCord, the team includes everyone from the board of directors to the members of the physical plant and everyone in between. “To get all of this going has only occurred because it has been a team effort,” said Dr. Noonan. “We have an excellent group of nurses, lab technicians, X-ray technicians and family doctors who are all in full support of the surgery.” As with any well-run business, the staff has specific goals in mind for its newest venture. Early on, only certain procedures will be performed at the local hospital. Basic surgeries such as endoscopies, hernia repair skin cancer removal and other various procedures that can be considered outpatient surgeries, are the main focus of the surgical team. The hospital will soon have the equipment to perform abdominal surgeries such as gall bladder surgeries, colon resectioning and even thyroid surgeries. “There will always be operations that are not done here,” said Dr. Noonan. “Things like transplants and heart surgeries and highly specialized procedures will always be done elsewhere.” The process of reopening the surgical suites has been researched and detailed to ensure the proper equipment is on hand for the surgeons. A new endoscopy machine, anesthesia machine and vital signs monitor top the list in recent acquisitions. “Our operating room is state of the art. It is identical in every way to any major medical center’s operating room,” Dr. Noonan commented. “We want to offer McCulloch County, all of the current, high quality medical services that our technicians and personnel will be able to provide.” The future of medicine in and around McCulloch County is stepping forward in leaps and bounds. With the highly qualified staff leading the way, surgical procedures will become more convenient for many people in the Heart of Texas.