It weighs the equivalent of 11 grand pianos, and it was spotted flying through the air outside Ridge Meadows Hospital this past week.
It is a 11,000-pound magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that was delivered to the local hospital Monday, much to the delight of many of its healthcare staff, said medical director Okert Lampen.
When Lampen arrived at the hospital that morning, he was rushing inside for a surgery, which only allowing him to catch a glimpse of the wrapped machine sitting on the back of the delivery flatbed.
That’s as close as he’s been – so far – but Lampen is anxious to rectify that situation soon.
“I want to get a look at it. I definitely want to see the beast this week or next,” Lampen said.
Construction has been ongoing for months in preparation for the machine’s arrival. That included sound-proofing the room, reinforcing the floor, and demolishing part of the eastern wall of the hospital to allow for the move-in of the eight-foot-by-eight-foot-by seven-foot magnet.
Lampen was told it took about 15 minutes for the crane to lift and reposition the magnet from the flatbed to the opening in the wall, followed by another 30 minutes to carefully and precisely get it inside the building.
The arrival of the $5-million diagnostic machine is a milestone for Ridge Meadows Hospital, he said, noting the MRI suite can now be finished – including setting up the machine, installing all the support equipment, and filling a gaping hole in the wall.
It’s hoped the MRI will be fully operational this early fall, he said.
Adding the MRI to Ridge Meadows Hospital has been years in the making, said Lampen, who’s been with the hospital since 2002, and in the medical director’s chair since last September.
Following a feasibility study a few years back, he said construction started last summer. And while no expansion was necessary to accommodate the new MRI suite, extensive renovations were required.
“It’s a fantastic thing for the community and the hospital. It’s huge,” Lampen said, not only of its size and weight, but of its significance to future patient care.
Describing the $7.5-million MRI suite as a game changer for this hospital and the community’s healthcare needs, he said.
It it’s like “day and night” in offering more precision for diagnosing and treating patients, he said, noting it will be able to perform 7,500 tests in a year, with the suite operating 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
This MRI suite is the 11th in the Fraser Health region. At present there are 73,000 MRIs a year performed in the Fraser Health region each year.
Not only will the addition of the machine at Ridge Meadows Hospital reduce wait times for local resident, which he said can be upwards of months at present, it will eliminate the need and potential increased danger of transporting an ill patient back and forth between the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster and Maple Ridge.
That’s not to mention the savings, he expounded, in transportation costs and the need to tie up emergency response vehicles and personnel.
The benefits are what the doctor calls “quite significant.”
He also pointed out that seven new technologists, plus added clinical staff, will be hired and trained ahead of the launch this fall.
This is a major capital project for Ridge Meadows Hospital. The last large undertaking came to fruition in 2016, with the completion of a $850,000 renovationsto the west wing of the hospital (2 West), which had not been refurbished since opening 35 years earlier.
Before that, the ambulatory care department was unveiled in January 2009, which came with a pricetag of about $21 million.
And as for what’s next on the hospital wishlist, Lampen wasn’t absolutely sure, but he suspects it might be modernizing and revamping of the hospital’s maternity ward.