No objections to MRI deal

The Memorial Hospital awaits approval of county commissioners

Hospital officials have one more hurdle between them and a business opportunity that's expected to net nearly $300,000 a year.

Members of The Memorial Hospital Joint Conference Committee, the hospital's Board of Trustees and Moffat County commissioners met Tuesday night to discuss the once-controversial acquisition of a used magnetic resonance imaging machine.

When hospital officials first talked about leasing an MRI and the building that houses it -- Northwest Health Specialists Center -- an anonymous group voiced opposition through an attorney.

No controversy followed advocates into Tuesday's meeting. Although there were several questions, there was no objection when officials asked to proceed to the next step: approval from the Moffat County commissioners.

A financial form released Tuesday estimates annual revenues at $281,749 based on the number of MRIs performed in the past three months.

The hospital has averaged 64 scans a month in the past three months. The hospital has not signed a lease with Northwest Health Specialists Center, but it has been renting the machine for the past three months to sample the potential market.

The terms under consideration are a year-to-year lease of the machine and associated software and a separate lease agreement for the Yampa Avenue building and property.

Total expenses would be $33,828 a month -- $3,917 a month for five years for furniture, fixtures and equipmen,t not including the MRI, $21,258 a month for five years for the MRI and $8,653 per month for 20 years for the property.

The hospital's Board of Trustees could get out of the agreement by not appropriating the rental payment in its budget, and it will have that option each year.

Should it appropriate funding for the full term of each lease, it will own the items listed in that specific lease agreement.

There are no plans to appropriate space in a proposed new hospital for an MRI, but potential exists to add the space.

TMH Administrator Randy Phelps said the manufacturer of the MRI that the hospital wants to acquire has said purchasing a comparable machine would cost $950,000, not including shipping or the estimated $75,000 cost to install the machine.

Phelps also said the $1,138,000 price of the building is less than what it has been appraised for.

Hospital officials intend to continue the existing agreements with the physicians who rent office space at Northwest Health Specialists Center.

"We want to do the transition in a seamless way, so there are no plans to alter the arrangement with the current occupants," Phelps said.

Plans could including providing other outpatient services through the clinic, such as an off-site surgery center.

Phelps said it could be used to provide clinic space or X-ray, laboratory or bone densitometry services.

The lease agreements will go before Moffat County commissioners for signing Tuesday. Commissioners Darryl Steele and Tom Gray attended the meeting. Both said they had enough information to make a decision Tuesday.

The commissioners' vote should end whatever controversy remained from the proposal's dubious beginnings.

The opposition recently has been silent, but that doesn't mean it no longer exists.

"I still think they're making a big mistake, but I've given up," neurologist Pam Kinder said. "I'm just sick of arguing with those people, because they don't ever look into anything."

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