Work began this week on a project to improve the imaging services at Whidbey General Hospital. Those upgrades should improve privacy, safety and speed of service for patients.
Workers are spending the week installing a CT scanner in the bowels of the Coupeville-based hospital.
Hospital diagnostic imaging manager Randy White is quick to note the improvements the new machine will have over its predecessor, which is 10 years old.
For example, if doctors needed a scan of a patient’s lungs, that person would have to hold their breath for 30 seconds in order to get a viable image. With the new machine, that amount of time is reduced to three seconds, White said.
Robert Hawkins, director of diagnostic imaging at Whidbey General Hospital, said changes in imaging will cause patients to receive 50 percent reduction in the amount of radiation while improving the image quality at the same time.
In addition, the bed for the new machine can accommodate people weighing up to 650 pounds while the old machine could accommodate someone weighing up to 300 pounds, White said, noting that the new machine’s gantry is also the largest size available.
The hospital last upgraded its CT scanner in 2012 and White said the life span for the old scanner is between five years and seven years.
Approximately 5,000 people have had procedures needing the hospital’s CT scanner and 55 percent of those patients come from the hospital’s emergency room.
Workers are renovating a room closer to the emergency department for the new machine. Currently if a patient needs a CT scan, they are wheeled through the hospital’s main hallway to get to the machine. White said the new room will be better because it shortens the path of travel and keeps a patient out of the public eye.
Workers started renovations for the new scanner at the start of the week and White said the first clinical use of the machine is scheduled to take place Monday.
Some parts of the hospital had to be powered down for about two-and-a-half hours Monday night so the installation could begin. There wasn’t any heat and the building’s front doors didn’t operate.
White said an employee was on hand to help open the doors and blankets were available in case people got too cold. The hospital staff also communicated with paramedics telling them if it appeared someone needed a CT scan, than they would have to go to a neighboring hospital.
“I think we did a good job last night minimizing the impact to patient care,” White said.
Once the installation of the new scanner is complete, the hospital will be near the top of the technology curve. The hospital recently introduced new MRI and ultrasound equipment.