Effingham Hospital’s open MRI center is now open for business — and hospital leaders want to make sure potential patients in the county and in surrounding areas know it’s here.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning in Rincon’s Towne Park West, hospital Administrator Norma Jean Morgan said the open magnetic resonance imaging unit didn’t come without a struggle. But hospital trustees, staff and legislators worked around the certificate of need issues and other obstacles.
“Memorial didn’t want us to have an open unit,” she said.
“There’s no reason why Effingham County shouldn’t have the very best health care,” state Sen. Jack Hill said. “I don’t have any trouble fighting for the right thing to do, and this was the right thing to do.”
So the plan they put together was to not put the open MRI at the imaging center, which is close to completion, at Goshen Road and Highway 21. Moving it off Highway 21 also helps, Morgan said, because the machine’s stability won’t be affected by the rumble of heavy trucks going by.
The MRI — a General Electric Signa openspeed system — was hailed by Dr. Robert Long of Radiology Associates.
“This is a very sophisticated unit,” he said. “It does beautiful work. It’s even better than I thought.”
“This magnet is state of the art,” said Ken Wimmer, chief of the Effingham Hospital’s radiology department. “We can do these images and they can be at the hospital in just a few moments. It’s a step forward for high-tech medicine.”
MRI technologist David Estep said the MRI has a few advantages over a CT scan.
“When you’re looking at muscular-skeletal stuff, the MR is the choice,” he said.
What makes the MRI different from the CT scan, Estep said, is the depth of which the machine takes pictures.
“We’re scanning in three parameters,” he said. “The CT only has two.”
Other MRIs are more like “torpedo tubes,” Estep said, “and that’s when your more claustrophobic patients have a problem.”
Instead of being enclosed in a tube, patients lie down and a receiver coil is placed around the part of the body to be imaged, and that part of the body is centered in the machine.
Hospital officials also are careful about how the room and the equipment are treated.
“No one can come in this door unless they go through a questionnaire,” Estep said.
Everyone, except for the patients, has to watch a safety video on the machine, and Estep met with the hospital cleaning staff to talk about procedures in that room.
Morgan said the hospital hopes those in surrounding counties, even in South Carolina, will call on their open MRI rather than going into Savannah.