Patient volume expected to grow
07/01/2013 - The Times West Virginian. By Mary Wade Burnside.
FAIRMONT - The new digital mammography machine for Fairmont General Hospital purchased with funds raised in the community will arrive at the facility July 8 and the first appointment has been scheduled for July 22.
“It’s one of our Foundation board members who has been waiting patiently for its arrival,” said Robert C. Marquardt, the hospital’s president and CEO.
It was the Fairmont General Hospital Foundation that raised the $513,000 to purchase the digital mammography machine and make renovations to the current mammography suite, which until recently featured two rooms with two separate machines.
Until recently, both of those machines, which used film that had to be developed to see the images, were in use, although one was used more frequently than the other. The one used less has been removed as renovations begin, and when the new Hologic-brand mammography machine arrives, the other one will be retired as well.
Even though there only will be one mammography machine instead of two, Marquardt expects patient volume to grow and for the hospital to be able to handle the increase.
One reason, Marquardt said, is that appointments will be scheduled every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, as had been done previously.
With the digital mammography machine, images are transferred onto a computer, with no need to develop film, so the process on that end is faster.
However, said Dr. John Leon, president of Radiological Physician Associates and chairman of the department of radiology, from the perspective of the patient, the test will be very similar as on the old machines.
“The compression (of the breasts) is still compression, and the machine looks remarkably similar,” Leon said. “The differences are on the back end when capturing the image. We’re not capturing it on film; we’re capturing it on a photographic plate, which is transferred to a computer. It’s the way the image is handled is what is different.”
The Fairmont General Hospital Foundation raised $513,000 to purchase a new digital mammography machine and make renovations to the current mammography suite.
The image still will be read by a radiologist soon after and a letter is put in the mail, so the amount of time in which a patient finds out her results also will not be much different.
But once again, with the digital technology, the radiologist will have the ability to manipulate the image, to make it lighter or darker or zoom in on an area of concern. This can help the radiologist read the results, especially with breasts that are dense or that have tiny calcifications that can be viewed better with the digital technology.
Hospital officials suspect that some potential patients have gone to other counties for treatment on digital mammography machines and expect that more will return to Fairmont General with the updated machine.
“I think that’s the anecdotal evidence,” Marquardt said.
If that is the case, there is room for additional mammogram appointments, and if the volume grows enough, additional slots can be opened, either by scheduling tests later in the afternoon and/or the evening, and by increasing weekend hours. Currently, weekend mammograms are scheduled from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, Leon said.
Renovations to the suite began last Monday and will cost just under $136,000, Marquardt said.
The two rooms that house mammography machines now will be converted into one room for the new digital mammography machine and an area for the patients to use to change.
“They’re doing each room in a phase so we won’t have any down time,” said Whitney Hatcher, coordinator for the Fairmont General Hospital Foundation.
The campaign for the machine kicked off in October 2011, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and concluded at the beginning of this year, with a final total of $513,000 raised.
Now that the digital mammography campaign has been completed, the Foundation has turned its focus to a navigational bronchoscopy machine, which would replace an existing bronchoscope that only allows a physician to see one-third of a patient’s lung instead of the entire organ, as the newer machine would.
That device will cost about $180,000, Hatcher said. About $45,000 has been raised in a little over two months, she added, and officials hope to complete the campaign by the end of the year.
“This one is a lot different,” Hatcher said. “With navigational bronchoscopy, we just have to purchase it and place it in a renovated suite. It’s definitely up to date, so we don’t have to do a renovation.”
As for the community effort to raise the funds, Leon said, most other hospitals do not have to do that. Bigger hospitals have the funds to purchase this type of equipment, he noted, while smaller, more rural hospitals qualify for the Critical Access Hospital, a program through the Office of Rural Health Policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Half a million dollars came from the community, which is a remarkable story,” Leon said. “I think that’s the most remarkable thing about the whole thing.”