‘Major step forward’: Auburn Community Hospital unveils new MRI scanner

September 17, 2016 GMT

AUBURN — Auburn Community Hospital formally unveiled a new MRI scanner Tuesday that hospital officials describe as one of the best in the region.

The magnetic resonance imaging system has been added to the hospital’s radiology department. In operating the technology, ACH has partnered with radiologists from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The $3.2 million scanner was funded with a grant from the Auburn Community Hospital Foundation, according to Scott Berlucchi, ACH’s president and chief executive officer.

Berlucchi was joined by other hospital executives, staffers and other invtied guests in ACH’s lower level Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new technology. Attendees also included state Assemblyman Gary Finch and students with the hospital’s New Visions program.

The event marked a significant change for hospital services as ACH did not have its own MRI system inside the hospital. Rather, hospital staff used a third-party freestanding MRI. The scanner was housed in the back of a tractor trailer parked at the hospital parking lot.

The new MRI system was installed after about three months of renovations to ACH’s lower level, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Riccio, which saw the area gutted before lead-lining the concrete walls.

“We now have a state-of-the-art investment here that’s already exceeding our financial expectations and it’s already doing more for the area patients than we thought it would six months in,” Riccio said Tuesday. “This is a really major step forward.”

The lower level of ACH now features four zones classifying the imaging department, with the fourth zone established for the MRI machine itself.

The new MRI at Auburn Community Hospital.

The wing was designed for comfort, said Dr. Ken Munro, ACH’s director of imaging services. For example, patients entering the MRI machine are treated to an LED overlay of cherry blossoms on the ceiling.

Due to the nature of magnetic resonance imaging, however, certain zones bear restrictions on metal objects — including implants — an individual can have on their person. The hospital’s model is a Siemens Magnetom Verio, which hospital officials said produces the highest quality images of any MRI program in the region.

Most community hospitals use a smaller 1.5-Tesla magnet with their MRI systems, said Dr. David Waldman, chair of the University of Rochester’s radiology department. With ACH’s 3-Tesla model, Waldman said the images radiologists get are “fabulous” quality.

Other area hospitals have taken notice as ACH has provided its imaging services to institutions from as far as Syracuse and Rochester, Berlucchi said.

“We’re very proud of that because they’re basically calling Auburn to get their scan done,” Munro said.

Berlucchi said ACH deserves nothing but “the very, very best the region has to offer” after partnering with the University of Rochester for radiology services.

When Berlucchi started as CEO in 2007, he said ACH did not have any sort of imaging system on its premises. Since then, Berlucchi said he committed himself to improvements.

“A far cry from 10 years ago,” he said of the current system. “No magnet or being in the parking lot, to the region coming here.”

Auburn Community Hospital recently opened a new MRI.