Eric Zalusky, diagnostic imaging manager at The Memorial Hospital, stands next to the hospital’s nuclear medicine camera Monday morning. The hospital board gave the green light Thursday to purchasing a new machine with a dual-head camera, which should reduce procedure times by about half, he said.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Eric Zalusky, diagnostic imaging manager at The Memorial Hospital, stands next to the hospital’s nuclear medicine camera Monday morning. The hospital board gave the green light Thursday to purchasing a new machine with a dual-head camera, which should reduce procedure times by about half, he said.

New equipment to reduce time TMH patients spend on screening table

At a glance …

• The Memorial Hospital Board gave the green light Thursday for a new dual-head nuclear medicine camera.

• The machine replaces the existing equipment at TMH, which has only one camera.

• The machine uses a radioactive tracer to show organs working in action.

• Diagnostic imaging manager: The dual-head camera will reduce scan times by about half.

Quotable:

“We are hoping that this machine will help increase patient satisfaction by reducing the amount of time that it takes for their scan to be completed.”

— Eric Zalusky, TMH diagnostic imaging manager, on a new dual-head nuclear medicine camera that will replace the hospital’s existing single-head camera

Getting diagnostic scans at The Memorial Hospital in Craig will carve less time out of patients’ schedules, thanks to a new machine the hospital board recently approved.

The board gave a unanimous green light at its regular meeting for a dual-head nuclear medicine camera. The new machine will replace existing nuclear medicine equipment, which has only one camera.

The new machine will reduce scanning times by about half, said Eric Zalusky, TMH diagnostic imaging manager.

Screenings start with a small injection of radiation. Then, patients lie prone on a table as the machine monitors the radiation moving through the body.

The procedure allows physicians to see organs in action, as opposed to an X-ray, which provides only static images of organs and bones, Zalusky said.

“Nuclear medicine is really good at looking at coronary artery disease,” as well as gallbladder and kidney function, he said.

The existing nuclear medicine equipment gets a fair share of mileage at TMH.

“We scan multiple patients a day on the machine,” Zalusky said.

However, because it has only one camera, patients can be on the table for anywhere from 30 minutes to more than two hours, he said.

Cutting down that time by about half is “significant in the sense that it’s already a long procedure,” Chief Financial Officer Bryan Chalmers said.

The refurbished dual-head camera comes to TMH by way of Swedish Medical Center in Denver, which recently upgraded its equipment.

The price tag includes about $25,000 of unplanned capital expense. Instead of getting a capital lease, hospital officials opted to purchase the equipment outright and postpone other expenditures.

“We’ll identify something that can be substituted and pushed into 2013,” Chalmers said.

“We have roughly … $1.5 million of capital (expenses) budgeted. It’s just sometimes when stuff happens, you have to move it around a little bit.”

The unexpected expense pales in comparison to what TMH was initially expecting to pay.

Hospital officials have been looking to get a new nuclear medicine machine for about a year, and the cost for a refurbished machine ranged from about $125,000 to $150,000, Chalmers said.

In Zalusky’s view, the new machine also is valuable from another perspective.

“We are hoping that this machine will help increase patient satisfaction by reducing the amount of time that it takes for their scan to be completed,” he said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com.

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