MRI scan numbers exceed expectations

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Business is holding steady in the number of scans recorded in the second month that The Memorial Hospital has worked out a temporary lease agreement with Northwest Health Specialists -- a medical group that owns and houses Craig's only MRI machine.

November saw 62 scans, which is down from October but still is above the mark that TMH officials estimated they would need to turn a profit on an eventual purchase the building and its equipment off Yampa Avenue.

"Ideally, we could get the deal closed by Feb. 1," TMH Administrator Randy Phelps said.

Phelps said TMH has received an appraisal for the building that affirms that the building "is worth more than the purchase price on the table," he said. Phelps declined to reveal the amount of the appraisal.

Moffat County commissioners required an independent appraisal before TMH could purchase the medical building and its equipment. Shannon & Associates of Fort Collins completed the appraisal.

Recent updates to the MRI machine has added value to the machine that should benefit TMH's eventual purchase, said Pam Young, financial officer for Northwest Health Specialists.

"It's like brand-new, with zero hours on it," Young said.

Water damage to the floor in the room where the MRI is housed stopped scans for about a week in November, Young said. At that time, the agency had the MRI calibrated and refilled with cryogen gas, which is needed to run the machine. The costs were covered under the MRI's service agreement, Young said, otherwise the expenses could have been more than $100,000.

"If the hospital moves forward with the purchase, then the timing happened to work well for them," Young said.

TMH negotiated a lease agreement in mid-October with Northwest Health Specialists to use the MRI on a per-scan basis. The lease agreement would end when TMH acquires the building.

The number of MRI scans has increased since TMH entered into the lease agreement, largely because local physicians have been referring patients there. Previously, physicians also referred patients to a traveling MRI service or other out-of-town services.

Hospital officials have said they need to book 50 MRI scans a month to break even on the costs of operating and buying the building.

The hospital has turned a profit of $24,500 a month in October and November since the start of the lease agreement, according to Phelps. In comparison, MRI scans earned Northwest Health Specialists $8,180 a month before the lease, he said.

TMH Board member Sue Lyster said she was pleased to see that the number of MRI scans is succeeding the hospital's expectations.

"The numbers are more than what we anticipated," she said. "I think it shows good strength."

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