By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Caesar’s Entertainment, Inc. presented a $2 million check for the purchase and five-year operation of a MRI machine to the Cherokee Indian Hospital in October 2012. Now, just a few months later, the machine is in place and patients are already benefiting from its use.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new MRI unit on Thursday, Feb. 28.
“Needless to say, the less I have to travel for diagnostic work or treatment, the better, and I’m sure that many of our tribal members feel the same way,” Carmaleta Monteith, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority governing board, said at Thursday’s event. “For the success of any project, you have to have teamwork and with the teamwork you have to have supporting leadership, you have to have the available resources, and you also have to have a committed, dedicated team in order to pull it off.”
Dr. Michael Toedt, executive director of clinical services at Cherokee Indian Hospital, commented, “Yesterday, we had our employee forum, as we do every quarter, and we communicated with our employees about a path to being world-class. This is certainly one of those steps. Having the technology here that is going to be available in our community so that patients don’t have to travel so far away to get this degree of really high-quality diagnostic equipment really is going to increase the level of care that we have.”
Dr. Toedt continued, “The MRI is going to help us diagnose diseases accurately and in a timely manner.”
He said the MRI will be able to diagnoses spinal conditions, brain conditions, muscular/skeletal problems, and various forms of cancers.
Casey Cooper, Cherokee Indian Hospital CEO, said the history of the project had a very simple start. “The Chief (Michell Hicks) said to me, ‘I think we need MRI.’”
He said he told Chief Hicks, “Chief, we’re pretty small. We’re a small, rural hospital and having that kind of fixed capacity at a small, rural hospital is just unheard of, and I’m not really sure we could make the business case to sustain MRI in this community. He said ‘well, the community wants it. We’ll figure out a way to deal with the operating expense so get ready.’”
Cooper thanked tribal leadership, sponsors including Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and the MRI implementation team. “Without that level of support, a small, rural hospital would never have this level of technology…so, we are very fortunate.”
Cooper also thanked the radiology staff at the Hospital including program head Judy Lambert, a 33-year hospital veteran. “She and her team have continually re-invented themselves to respond to changes in care and technology.”
Two members of the radiology staff completed special training to become certified in operation of the MRI machine including Enid Price, R (RT) (MR) and Kimberly Middleton, R (CT) (MR). They took a six-month training course at East Tennessee State University with additional training at Westcare in Sylva.
According to WebMD, MRI is defined as, “Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. In many cases, MRI gives different information about structures in the body than can be seen with an x-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan.”
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