Raising the radiology roof
5 August 2022
The Radiology Department at Taranaki Base Hospital are the proud custodians of brand new state-of-the art MRI and CT scanner machines – but taking delivery of them was a major logistical challenge.
“It wasn’t just getting the very heavy, very big machines through the doors and up to the second floor of the hospital,” explains Te Whatu Ora Taranaki project manager Heather MacKenzie. “We had to upgrade the technical specification of the rooms the machines were to go in too.”
The MRI (Medical Resonance Imaging) Scanner weighs in at 4 tons and the CT (Computerised Tomography) scanner at 3.7 ton. A new SPECT CT scanner (which uses radioactive tracers in the blood to take images rather than X-rays) is due to arrive at the end of August.
In order to take the weight, the floors where the scanners were to go had to be strengthened with steel and concrete, which needed the installation of new ceiling beams to protect the floors below. Some of these were craned in through a window above the emergency department, and cardiology was temporarily relocated while the work took place.
“The strengthening work was very disruptive but the clinical teams involved were fantastic and just got on with their daily mahi treating patients amidst the bangs and thuds, “says Heather. “Everyone involved with this major piece of work, which took six weeks, responded so well, it made the job so much easier to get done.”
Then came the challenge of actually getting the new machines into their new homes. The CT Scanner took a careful journey via the ASB loading dock, up in the lift and across the level 2 temporary link bridge ( which was reinforced with steel plates). But the MRI machine was too big to come in through conventional doorways so there was only one solution – by air.
“Ultimately, the only way to get a piece of equipment this big into a building is by taking down one of the walls or taking off the roof,” says Heather. “In this case the roof was the better option, so off it it came and the MRI scanner was craned in, then the roof was replaced.”
All in all, the project took six weeks of intense, challenging work not helped by the Taranaki weather.
“Yes, it was tough while it lasted, but everyone recognised the clinical benefit of having these brand new machines with all the capability they bring,” says Ryan Walklin, Te Whatu Ora Taranaki head of radiology. “So it was a matter of putting in alternative patient pathways and being flexible about work spaces and so on until the job was done.
For the radiology team, maintaining a service throughout the disruption was the biggest challenge.
“Having such long period of downtime at a hospital is a very unique situation, and were lucky to be able to call on the support of Absolute Radiology and Taranaki Radiology during this time.
“Any inpatients requiring a MRI or CT scan were transported from Taranaki Base Hospital to town so they could get the diagnostic treatment they needed.
“In some cases we were able use other modalities, and any really unwell patients, particularly those who were intubated, were transfered to tertiary services in Waikato and Auckland. St Johns Ambulance staff and the transfer nurses were wonderful.”
Looking forward, Ryan is anticipating an uplift in capacity thanks to the efficiency of the machines, plus the opportunity to offer enhanced patient care thanks to the extra functionality they offer.
“We have gone from having the oldest MRI scanner in the country by quite some way to the newest so we are pretty excited about getting it commissioned and having the training so we can use it to its full potential.”