The Candler County Hospital Authority approved the purchase of a new Hitachi CT Scanner and MRI machine at the August board meeting.

 Kelly Morris, radiology manager, presented the bids with the explanations that both of the hospital’s current imaging machines are outdated, break down constantly and have no service contracts. Additionally, parts are hard to find and required software upgrades cannot be done. 

 Morris went on to say, “We are having to wait 30 minutes between CTs because (the machine) gets too hot. We also have patients that are too big and we can’t accommodate them. 

 “In June, we sent out 25 patients because  of claustrophobia or (they were) too large for our scanner. We need something more efficient and faster that can provide for all of our patients, not just a few of them.”

 The lease/purchase payment for the CT Scanner is $11,200 a month for 84 months, including all contracted maintenance, totaling $941,000. That price comes in comparable to other bids of about $1 million for refurbished equipment that is between five and 13 years old.

 The cost of the MRI is $1.6 million with an 84- month lease with payments of $18,760.

 Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Chip Cowart agreed with Morris about the need for a new CT scanner, saying, “If you’re going to have an ER, you have to have a CT scan. The second thing you need in ER is ultrasound. You’ve got to have a dependable ultrasound to provide the images you need. The third piece of equipment you better have that does a good job is mammograms. Those are the things (to have) if you want to make a difference in your community … but ...”

 He warned the Authority about the purchase of the MRI, saying, “I would think long and hard about getting an MRI, and I’ll tell you why. If you have an MRI, that’s a wonderful thing. But you better have the volume, rather than ‘if you build it they will come’ because I don’t necessarily agree with that.

 “The reason I don’t agree with that is the person that’s going to order an MRI is a specialist. The approval from a general care doctor gets denied a lot quicker.” Dr. Cowart explained that MRIs ordered by specialists tend to be approved by insurance more often than those ordered by general doctors.  

 “You have more limitations on MRIs with the long-term approval process,” he said. “If the CT goes down, you’ll lose money ... the MRI, that’s one of the things you’ll have to look at harder.”

 The hospital anticipates a 30 percent growth in CT scans and the ability to do about 50 percent more MRIs with the new equipment.

 “This will put us with the same scanners as Candler/St. Joe. This tells you about the level of technology we’ll be bringing to Metter,” commented Hospital CEO Michael Purvis.

 Purvis also pointed out that the purchase could fall under COVID-19 stimulus funding to help offset the local cost.

 Authority member Pam Smith said, “I just think if we are going to grow, we want everything to bring in new physicians, to have it here if we need it. Obviously we have some need for (the equipment) now and hopefully we can build on it. 

 “I think if we keep having negative thoughts about what happened in the past, we’re going to stand still forever. We cannot market this hospital with ten years ago thoughts. Unfortunately, the board got stung (in the past) ... with refurbished equipment and it’s time for our community to have something new.”

 The purchases were voted on separately, and both recommendations passed, with Rocker Hartley voting against the purchase of the MRI.

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