Health Care

Jackson Memorial to close decades-old lab that makes artificial limbs and other devices

In this 2011 photo, William Alexander Jr., a patient who lost both legs, repositions himself in his chair at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital while his physical therapist, Cecilia Orazi, carries one of Alexander’s prosthetic legs. Jackson plans to close the prosthetics and orthotics lab on Sept. 30, replacing it with prefabricated orthotics and outsourced custom prosthetics.
In this 2011 photo, William Alexander Jr., a patient who lost both legs, repositions himself in his chair at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital while his physical therapist, Cecilia Orazi, carries one of Alexander’s prosthetic legs. Jackson plans to close the prosthetics and orthotics lab on Sept. 30, replacing it with prefabricated orthotics and outsourced custom prosthetics. Miami Herald Staff

For more than 50 years, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami has housed a prosthetics and orthotics lab that makes artificial limbs, leg and back braces, specially fitted shoe inserts and other devices for amputees and other patients who need rehabilitation.

Beginning in October, Jackson administrators plan to close the lab and shift entirely to prefabricated orthotics available off the shelf while patients who need custom-fitted prosthetics to replace an amputated limb will get them through a contractor who will come to the hospital for consultations.

Calling the move “in line with industry standards,” Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya said in a memo to Miami-Dade officials that the shift will be “seamless.”

“As technology has advanced in the field of prosthetics and orthotics, prefabricated pieces ... have become more effective and accessible, diminishing the need for custom fabrication of those products,” said Migoya, who added that most hospitals around the country use prefabricated orthotics and prosthetics.

Migoya also cast the change as part of an effort to help the Miami-Dade taxpayer-supported hospital network — which has an annual budget of nearly $1.9 billion — compete with other South Florida healthcare systems.

The annual cost of operating the prosthetics and orthotics lab, including employees’ salaries and benefits, and supplies, is about $747,000, said Jennifer Piedra, a Jackson spokeswoman. The lab has four employees, and those workers will be offered new jobs elsewhere in the hospital system once the facility closes on Sept. 30.

Piedra said that, on average, Jackson orders about 150 prosthetic and orthotic devices each month for patients. Of those devices, about 20 — or 13 percent — are custom made through the lab. The rest are prefabricated, she said.

Jackson expects to see “a slight cost savings” once the hospital system completes the procurement process for a contracted vendor, Piedra said.

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