by Mary (Galer) Herschelman of The Journal-News
The patients asked for it, and Hillsboro Area Hospital has provided it, with a new state-of-the-art MRI machine on-site at the hospital.
"It's been part of our visioning plan," said Imaging Supervisor Trinity Flowers. "We have public visioning sessions to determine our needs for the future. They told us they wanted an MRI in house. It was our goal to provide that within five years, and we met that goal."
Flowers said currently, the hospital offered a mobile MRI unit on a trailer, available two days a week. About a year ago, they began looking for a new machine that would better meet patient needs.
Staff members traveled to Wisconsin, Georgia, Mendota and St. Louis, MO to see a wide variety of machines, including GE, Toshiba, Siemens and Hitatchi, which offered an open model.
"That's what patients wanted, something that wasn't so closed in and tight" Flowers said.
At each place they visited, they requested images on a disk from each individual MRI machine, which were then brought back and read by a local radiologist. Flowers said the open Hitatchi model was immediately ruled out because the quality of the images was just not there.
To try and meet patient needs, they opted for a GE 450W model, and the "W" stands for wide, featuring a wider opening.
"The smaller opening was a lot cheaper, but we thought it was important to get a bigger one for patient comfort," Flowers said.
She said the new machine offers the latest in technology, and many scans will feature a much shorter duration.
"We wanted our patients to feel comfortable, but we also wanted top quality images," Flowers said. "This model will provide both."
To accommodate this new scanner, the hospital needed a special room, which would shield the MRI machine from outside radio waves which may skew scans. The room was built off-site and then brought in on a truck. It took two cranes to place it on the poured concrete, one to place the room and another to add the magnet.
"The building protects the MRI from outside waves, and provides the cleanest and crispest images," Flowers said. "The room is guaranteed not to have outside interference."
Flowers said having the room attached to the hospital will be much nicer for patients instead of having to trek outside and use a lift to get up to the MRI machine on a trailer. The new scanner is also quieter.
To help ease patient anxiety when it comes to MRI testing, each patient can set the lighting, theme and even the music in the room. Patients will be allowed to use an iPad to select one of 16 themes and a variety of lighting colors. The room also features a screen on the ceiling where patients can watch pictures of landscape scenes or other things.
For children, there is even an aquarium scene with fish swimming around.
"Before they go in, the room will look and feel how patients want it to feel," Flowers said.
To meet patient needs with the new MRI machine, the hospital needed a new staff member in charge of it. They hired Hillsboro native John Sikorski, who completed a week of training in Wisconsin specifically on this new machine.
Flowers said Sikorski was a student at the hospital several years ago, and they kept him in mind for the project.
"We chose John because when he was a student at this hospital, he really cared about the quality of the images and doing what was best for the patients," Flowers said.
He has been on staff at Hillsboro Area Hospital for the past two months. Prior to that he worked for St. John's Hospital in Springfield and then spent eight years with Insight Health, a mobile MRI unit. "I'm glad to be back home," Sikorski said.
He and one other technologist will be trained to run the new MRI machine, and eventually other staff will be trained for emergency purposes.
Sikorski has also been training staff members and other personnel about safety around the new MRI machine.
"This type of environment will put the patient more at ease and offer a lot more resolution with the images," Sikorski said.
Training continues with hospital staff next week, and they expect to be doing patient scans sometime later this month.
The hospital is offering a special open house for the public to see the new MRI machine on Thursday, July 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Guests should meet in the education classroom for a reception and presentation about the new MRI scanner. Tours will be available that evening as well.