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What's Happening in Health Care?

Is NMC's new MRI complete?

Jill BowenJill Bowen

Almost!  Construction and installation are nearly complete.  We are very excited to have earned our “Certificate of Occupancy” for the new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) suite at NMC.  We will begin using the new equipment with patients in June.  As this is an important step forward for diagnostics in our community, we are holding a public open house on June 6th from 4pm to 6pm.  You will have a chance to see the MRI, talk to some of our Technologists and Radiologists who will be using it, enjoy refreshments, and even register to win a gas card!

MRI is an important diagnostic tool which uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create incredibly detailed pictures of organs and other structures inside the body.  NMC has purchased the Toshiba Titan 1.5 Tesla MRI.  With its large bore (the opening for the patient), this new machine can accommodate larger patients and patients who have issues with confined spaces – patients who used to have to be transferred.  This new machine naturally features the most up-to-date software, which provides much clearer imaging allowing for earlier detection and more accurate results.  It is a very exciting advancement in patient care.

I should back up and talk about the history of this project as it is a good example of NMC’s approach to progress and innovation.  Our mission speaks to providing exceptional care for our community.  That involves ensuring the proper match between community need and available technology.  Years ago, as MRI emerged as a diagnostic tool able to create incredibly detailed images of the inside of the body, it was only available in the nation’s largest facilities.  As the technology evolved, it became affordable for academic medical centers and at that point, our community still didn’t have the population base to support a full-time unit.  However, the technology was becoming integrated into best practices and the standard of care for primary care medicine, so we still needed better access to MRI imaging than driving to Burlington provided.  To achieve this, in 1998 NMC and other rural Vermont hospitals contracted for mobile MRI services.  An MRI would arrive at NMC and patients could be scanned.  The unit would then travel to another hospital, maximizing the efficient use of the technology while providing access across the State.  As our population grew and as the use of MRI advanced, the need for MRI imaging grew.  NMC was able to keep pace with our community’s need by increasing the number of days per week the mobile unit visited our hospital. 

It became clear that we would need our own MRI unit, as the costs of leasing the mobile unit for multiple days per week would eventually exceed the cost of ownership.  In addition to containing costs, a fixed unit would significantly improve the patient experience (as patients would no longer be imaged in the back of an 18 wheeler) and allow us to provide even better technology (a large bore magnet with state-of-the-art software for less claustrophobia and enhanced imaging).  We began preparations for that improvement.  When we renovated the area in and around our Diagnostic Imaging Department in 2003, we designed our Pharmacy and Chapel at that time so they could be relocated and an MRI could take its place.  This thoughtful design prevented costly rework.  We then began training our own staff to perform MRI exams, which allowed us to eliminate the use of more costly leased staff provided by the mobile MRI vendor.  During this time, our Board’s prudent approach to financial management had allowed us to save monies to fund the MRI thereby avoiding added costs of interest expense.  This careful preparation put NMC in an excellent position to add our new MRI when the time was right.  

In November of 2012, we were granted a Certificate of Need from the State of Vermont to add a fixed-site, large-bore MRI unit to NMC.  We were able to demonstrate the project matched community need, improved patient care, and reduced costs long term.  Since then, we have worked with Morris Switzer Environments for Health, PC Construction, and Toshiba to relocate our Pharmacy and our Chapel & Reflection Room, renovate the space for the new MRI, and install the new equipment.  As I said, this work will be complete in early June and our community will have enhanced access to truly state-of-the-art imaging in a wonderfully comfortable setting right here in our own community hospital.  We are very excited about this enhancement in patient care and I hope you will join us at our open house on June 6 between 4pm and 6pm. 

-- Jill Berry Bowen, NMC CEO