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Ray County Memorial Hospital is committing big dollars to improving the hospital’s services.
The hospital spent to the tune of $1.3 million for a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) component. The new magnet is five times stronger than the one just removed last month from the building, according to Tommy Hicks, the hospital’s chief administrator.
In addition to providing stronger and sharper images for doctors to examine, Hicks said the new magnet would work faster.
Hicks said the design of the new machine would be easier for patients who experience claustrophobia when they are transported inside of the machine. Hicks said the new machine is shaped more like a doughnut rather than a tube so less of the body needs to be inside of the machine. He also said the circumference of the area inside the machine is also broader.
Hicks said even employees at the hospital that have gone through an MRI are excited about the new machine. He said the hospital opted for the machine made by Siemens because of the design.
“Hopefully the technology of this unit will be less claustrophobic,” Hicks said. “You won’t have to be confined as long as the old technology.”
Hicks said the hospital’s board realized the need for the upgrade for the patients and doctors, but also because the hospital wants to be state of the art.
“It (the old MRI) still takes images as good as it ever did, but progress had been made in technology,” he said. “We could keep (the old MRI) but it wouldn’t be fair to the patients.”
In the meantime, the hospital has a mobile MRI unit that comes to the hospital usually once a week. The mobile MRI unit has the same strengths, and a capability of the new MRI the hospital is receiving.
Hicks said the hospital paid for the new units with reserve funds that have been accruing for about the last seven years. He said when the hospital first purchased an MRI unit, it did so with the intention of replacing it eventually. In addition, the hospital built the MRI room so that the hospital’s exterior brick wall could be removed without disturbing the flow of the brick or the structural integrity of the building.
The MRI’s chiller unit has already been installed and sits outside in the parking lot on a fresh concrete slab. The unit has four fans and is larger than a small car. Hicks said the chiller only cools the magnet itself.
The new magnet arrives Monday and should be installed by the end of the day. Hicks said some wiring and other connections will need to be made and then software will be installed and the magnet will be calibrated.
Hicks said hospital staff will then spend about another week training on the machine before it is put into operation. The new magnet should be ready for use by the second week of February.
Photo: A new MRI system from Siemens that will be installed next week at Ray County Memorial Hospital looks similar to this model. The new magnet is five times more powerful than the one being replaced. (Siemens NewsPhoto)