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Regina opens $6.4 million Medical Imaging department

LuAnn Morrison describes the technology in the radiographic/flouroscopy room. Michelle Wirth/RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
The MRI used to be located at the loading dock inside of a truck. It is now inside the hospital within the Medical Imaging department.2 / 4
The relocation of the DEXA scanner has much more space to improve the patient experience.3 / 4
The new CT scanner is faster and has better quality images.4 / 4

Regina Hospital has recently opened its newly remodeled Medical Imaging Department, a $6.4 million project. The complete remodel of the unit has included the upgrade or replacement of three major diagnostic tools including the magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography and radiographic/flouroscopy equipment.

John Tonsager, director of clinical and support services at Regina Hospital, said that efficiency is something they are gaining with the remodeled department.

"I think our effort at the onset was an improved patient experience, but also to bring the latest technologies to our community without having to go elsewhere for both services, so we feel that the quality and the needs can be met at a local level," Tonsager said.

The new imaging department is located where the emergency department used to be located. LuAnn Morrison, manager of medical imaging and laboratory services at Regina Hospital, said that the new department will improve the patient experience significantly.

"The technology that we brought into this department in this community is as good or better than anywhere in the Twin Cities," Morrison said.

The new MRI is a significant upgrade from how Regina was operating in the past. Although the technology was still great, the location of old MRI was not ideal. Morrison said it was located at the loading dock inside of a truck. Patients would have to be rolled out onto a ramp that connected to a truck with the equipment inside.

Morrison said that even with the MRI located where it was, patients would come back every time because they had such great experiences with the staff.

"We just want to make the best of their experience by getting their MRI inside," Morrison said.

A patient would now be brought into what staff call zone three, an area that is inside the building and within the Medical Imaging Department.

Other improvements to the MRI include a larger gantry, or the opening, than what the mobile MRI has, allowing Regina to accommodate larger patients. Morrison said that the space around the opening gives a feeling of openness, reducing the claustrophobic feel. The mobile scanner that was used prior to the remodel took about 60 minutes to scan, but the new equipment can scan in as little as 45 minutes.

Another convenient feature for both patient and staff are the two small openings near the doorway to the MRI. Staff can run IV lines through the holes in the doorway without removing the IVs from the patient.

The relocation of the DEXA scanner, which is used to look for osteoporosis, has allowed for a better patient experience, Morrison said. She said the technology of the scanner is the same, but the space in the room is much larger.

Morrison said that the technology of the new CT scanner also creates a better patient experience. The procedure is faster and the radiation dose is less because of the new technology and speed of the scanner.

The CT scan allows doctors to view areas like the spine or brain in slices, as if it were sliced layer-by-layer. The slices can be viewed two-dimensionally or added back together to create a three-dimensional image. In the past, the CT scanner could take eight slices, but the new scanner can do 80 slices.

"So that means we're going to get more images and we can also do much thinner and finer so we're going to be able to have better quality images than we were able to obtain in the past," Morrison said.

Finally, the radiographic and fluoroscopic room is also new. The new equipment reduces the time for some examinations because staff previously had to leave the room to develop images. Everything is now digital, Morrison said.

The new technology also lowers the amount of exposure to radiation by 30-50 percent. At the same time, the image quality is improving, Morrison said.

"We've always had really good image quality here but as you get to a new generation of technology, we want to maintain the excellence in what we provide to our community," Morrison said.

Construction on the Medical Imaging Department took about nine months. Tonsager said that the hospital is proud to open the expansion which will improve the efficiency and patient experience within the hospital.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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