New Hospital to Offer Latest Technology

February 3, 2011 Arkansas City - South Central Kansas Medical Center's new replacement hospital is scheduled to open later next month. While the finishing touches are being completed on the building itself, the medical center's staff is beginning to train with the hundreds of new pieces of equipment and systems that will be used for patient care and comfort.

"We are ensuring that our staff is fully competent to utilize the new technologies we have in the new facility. They share our excitement to have new equipment available, and understand the importance of attaining the required level of skill and knowledge to use appropriately," said SCKMC's CEO, Steve Perkins.

Radiology department staff began training with vendors early in January to become familiar with their new equipment. Once the medical center opens, that department will feature six new pieces of equipment. Up to eight weeks of training is required for each new machine.

"It's a very thorough education process," said Candy Allen, SCKMC's Radiology Department Team Leader. "We train with new studies using the new software; it's much more advanced than what we have had."

Perhaps the department's biggest advancement is the addition of their "high-field, open MRI". While staff state that the new technology will allow them to perform more exams than ever before, they are most excited about the machine's design. The "open" format will help to alleviate the claustrophobic feelings often associated with MRI exams.

"We will be able to help a larger population that currently has to go an hour away for an open exam. Right now you go into a cylinder; the new machine has an oblong type opening. The wider opening makes people feel more at home, and the room has a window so it feels larger as well," Allen said.

In addition to the open-MRI, the medical center's radiology department will feature new equipment including a 64-slice CT scanner, new nuclear medicine, general x-ray, fluoroscopy, and a portable x-ray for patient's that cannot be transferred to the department. All of the equipment has been specifically designed to at least 500 pounds.

"With the new equipment we can provide for a wider range of patients. Our x-ray machine is rated for up to 800 pounds," Allen said.

The sturdier equipment is important as SCKMC continues to expand upon its services to diagnose and treat overweight patients. Two patient rooms have been specifically designed for "bariatric" or medically obese patients, and include overhead lifts to assist staff in moving larger patients.

"We are very pro-active in the role of addressing the obesity problem," said Pat Davis, SCKMC's Chief Nursing Officer. It is so important to keep the patient mobile and safe. Everything is extra-wide, the bed, the chairs, everything."

Advances in monitoring technology have allowed the medical center to offer specialized levels of care for patients admitted for a stay. In addition to bariatrics, SCKMC will offer intensive care, general care, obstetrics, and a new level designated as "step-down" care for patients.

"The step down unit is for a patient that is almost ready to leave ICU, but still needs more monitoring than a patient on the general medical unit," Davis said.

Patients are able to be safely monitored through a combination of a telemetry system and nurse call system.

"The nurse call system includes a special response package that will help us answer calls quicker, providing a faster response time so we can give better service," Davis said.

The equipment purchased at the medical center stretches far beyond imaging machines, patient beds, or call systems. Every department is affected by the new technology. In total, more than $5.7 million worth of equipment has been purchased for the new hospital.

"Our investment in the future of the Cowley community is significant. We want to provide a level of care and service that will reduce the need for people here to travel greater distances," Perkins said.

(Photo): Steve Perkins and Pat Davis inspect the radiology equipment recently installed at the new medical center.