ALPENA - The Alpena Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees recently approved replacing its Magnetom Area Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, a nine-year-old system that no longer meets the needs of patients or additional volume coming from the cancer center. Doug Kreis, director of oncology services, requested the capital purchase of the 1.5 Tesla MRI machine at a cost of $1,991,970, but said this single piece of equipment is top notch and a step forward for Alpena and ARMC.
"I have a very difficult job, I have to figure out what the community needs and physicians need, then deliver both," Kreis said. "It's my job to find equipment that will work for a long time, and create a positive experience for patients while delivering high-quality images. This machine balances both sets of criteria and produces the best images money can buy."
Kreis said recommending the purchase was a long and extensive process, which took a lot of research and time as well as three on-site visits by doctors and technologists.
"We checked the images and took the machine for a test drive. This is a $1.5 million purchase, it's not something we have the luxury of making a mistake on. It has to be the right piece of equipment," he said.
According to Kreis, some of the major factors that went into the decision to purchase the MRI machine from Siemens include a bigger bore (opening around the machine), which makes the machine wider while decreasing the length of the machine to provide shorter exam times for patients.
"The other big must-haves include a detachable table for patient and staff safety. We wanted to reduce the amount of transfers for safety of our patients, especially for patients in pain," he said.
After countless thorough image evaluations, on-site visits, presentations from three different selected vendors, and group discussions on the system, the recommendation went to the board.
"The equipment was ordered the day after the board approved it. Now we're working on receiving our Certificate of Need from the state, within 60 days we should have it," he said. "It took a lot of work evaluating the systems for everyone, to have this piece done and out of the way is great, but we still have a lot more work to do."
Kreis said it will take around three months to build the custom-made machine for ARMC, but when the equipment is set, the large and heavy MRI machine will need to be lifted in by a crane.
"It's a big piece of equipment, it weighs around 10,000 pounds. We have a hatch in the roof of the room, so we'll lift the hatch, take the old one out with a crane, finish construction, and put the new one in. The entire time we will have an interim mobile unit with MRI capabilities here," he said. "Hopefully it will be in place before the snow flies."
Approximately 4,800 procedures per year are performed at ARMC. The new system is expected to significantly shorten the overall length of exams while increasing the number of patients that use the technology. The table capacity will also allow 100 pounds more than the current system has, holding up to 550 pounds.
"We selected it because it's quicker, and it will reduce the length of time for patients. One of our goals is to have shorter exam times. Overall, it will create a more inviting atmosphere with lighted panels that will hopefully soothe and eliminate some fears," he said. "Every year we look at the hospital budget for new equipment, it'll be tough to do a lot of other projects this year because of the high cost of the machine, but it's definitely worth it."
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5687.