Haiti earthquake survivors will receive new hope in the form of a mechanical friend today : a surgical robot that will allow doctors to assist with procedures from anywhere in the world.

The robot, named the VisitOR1, will travel to St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti with a team of 12 doctors and nurses from Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and California Pacific Medical Center. They are assisting in relief efforts for the earthquake that happened on Jan. 12 just outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

“Some victims weren’t treated at first or weren’t treated properly,” Kevin McCormack, media relations manager for California Pacific Medical Center said. “This robot will help address that and to do more complicated procedures than the last time around.”

The VisitOR1 utilizes an Internet connection to allow doctors to watch procedures from many cameras on the device. Remote specialists are also able to use a laser pointer to show onsite physicians at St. Nicholas Hospital the areas that they will be discussing.

“It’s like telemedicine, like a highly sophisticated version of Skype,” McCormack said.

The robot and equipment, including a miniature X-ray machine, is worth at least $200,000, McCormack said. The equipments’ manufacturing companies have donated the tools, he added.

This is the third trip that teams from these two centers will make to Haiti. The first was in January and the second in March.

“When we first went, the government was in shambles. There was no infrastructure in the entire country,” Dr. Stephen Lockhart, team leader for this Haiti trip said. “Hopefully at this point there’s a little bit more we can do in building that infrastructure.”

Dr. Lockhart, who joined 15 medics on the January and March tours, said there was initially “just this unbelievable devastation and loss.” But after global attention waned on the earthquake, Lockhart saw a “drop-off” in support, he said.

“The chronic state of poverty and poor healthcare in Haiti is probably not something that lots and lots of people are going to jump to support,” he said.

Doctors will help victims of the Haiti earthquake starting today and will remain there for six days.

After they return, the team plans on leaving the VisitOR1 at the hospital and using the system to remotely assist with future procedures.

“We want to bring technical expertise and medical knowledge in a way that’s ongoing,” said Dr. Lockhart.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!