Central Peninsula General Hospital will see some competition from a source closer than Anchor-age.
Three months after the hospital installed a new computerized tomography scanner, a high-tech imaging apparatus used to diagnose internal injuries, Alaska Open Imaging Center moved in a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine Monday to set up shop in Soldotna.
"It's an open magnet (unit), so we're able to take any patient," said Alaska Open Imaging chief operations officer Sam Korsmo.
Rather than entering a somewhat confining "tunnel" in which patients are scanned, Open Imaging's MRI allows more room on the exam table.
"The more openness you have for medical imaging, the better off it is for patients," Korsmo said. "It helps for those who might get claustrophobic or who may have physical hindrances that would prevent them from fitting onto a CT scan table."
He said there are windows in the MRI suites allowing patients to see the outdoors while they are being scanned.
Once images are obtained, Alaska Open Imaging can transmit them to physicians via the Internet, so doctors can view files from their offices or homes.
The center is scheduled to open in mid-October next door to Bailey's Furniture Store on the Kenai Spur Highway, doing only MRIs initially. Eventually, however, the center will offer CT scanning, bone density testing, and PET (positron emission tomography) scanning, which can obtain cardiac, cancer, bone and brain imaging.
"It's like walking into a stadium with all the lights out and wanting to find second base, lighting a candle and finding it," Korsmo said. "PET is good for finding things that can't be found without a lot of looking."
The facility will be the third one of its kind in the state. There are Alaska Open Imaging Centers in Wasilla and Anchorage.
Four radiologists and a handful of technicians from the Anchorage or Wasilla centers will rotate working at the Soldotna center each week, "until we get to know the area," Korsmo said.
Within two years, he said the Soldotna center could staff up to 12 people, including clerical staff and technicians.
Patients must be referred to the clinic by their physicians. Korsmo said the centers will take all forms of private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
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