The new MRI machine at Salem Memorial District Hospital will be operational this fall, with delivery of the unit expected in mid-August, officials said.

Brickwork on the small building that will house the MRI is almost finished, the roof is nearing completion and copper shielding and drywall have been installed, SMDH administrator Kasey Lucas told the hospital board last week.

The MRI, ordered in March 2019, is tentatively scheduled for delivery Aug. 17. Once the MRI is in place, SMDH will be able to perform MRIs all the time instead of just two days a week. The hospital currently contracts with a mobile MRI provider that comes on-site for appointments.

“I’m going to say we’ll probably have our mobile unit through September,” Lucas told the board. “They will come in, they will test, they will train and do all that. We’re getting it in mid-August so it will take time to get it ready to go.”

A nearly $2 million expansion project now underway at the hospital originally called for moving several departments to accommodate a centralized imaging area where the new MRI machine would be housed. But plans were revised in October to put the MRI in a new brick and mortar addition to the rear of SMDH near the patio entrance. By building on instead of moving more departments to create space internally for the MRI, about $600,000 was saved, Lucas said at the time.

That space will be constructed to allow for future expansion to possibly include the CT unit and create a new centralized imaging area.

The MRI machine, a Vantage Titan made by Canon Medical Systems, has the largest bore on the market, 71 cm, and will accommodate patients who are larger or claustrophobic.

• In his hospital expansion/renovation update at the July board meeting, Lucas said drywall is being installed in the old maintenance area and the old medical records area. In surgery, the sewer line has been replaced and new concrete poured. Flooring will be installed soon and it can be reopened for surgery, he said.

The old medical records area, being converted to cardiopulmonary services, is “kind of on hold,” Lucas said. “They’re finishing all the MRI stuff first, then they’ll move to that area.”

• The board was shown pictures of the new flooring installed in acute care, where window replacement has now begun. “The acute care floor looks great,” said Jason Edwards, chief operating officer. “It’s welded vinyl. Nothing can really get in the cracks. With infection control it’s great.”

• In his COVID-19 update, Lucas said the hospital is continuing its one-visitor policy implemented June 15. The limit is one visitor per day for acute care and ER patients, and visitors must be 16 or older. Exceptions are made in end-of-life cases and other extenuating circumstances will be considered.

• Masks are required for staff members. Lucas was asked about the inventory of personal protective equipment. “We are having a consistent amount of PPE without any huge shortages,” he said. “But with our volume, if we were to have a big increase, that would definitely be something to be concerned with. I think every facility would have that same worry.”

He added, “This month we did experience our first COVID inpatient, so definitely if you had a number of those, you’d be using up your PPE constantly. Again. we’ve been very fortunate and hope that we continue to be as fortunate.”

SMDH continues to hold daily staff briefings open to all employees on the COVID situation and what’s going on in various departments, Lucas reported.

• In addition to CARES Act money, the hospital has received an $84,317 SHIP COVID-19 grant from the Department of Health and Senior Service, he said. “We have already applied for a good portion of that for reimbursement,” he said, with the request expected to process in next two to three months.

• In his SMDH Foundation report, Edwards said the June golf tournament raised a surprising $10,867 that he called outstanding, especially during a pandemic.

But he said a decision was made to cancel the Wings and Strings concert and wing contest fundraiser set for September due to COVID-19.

“We were having a lot of trouble booking bands,” he said. “Agents just didn’t want to, there was a lot of resistance. There were a lot of different events that were cancelling so we decided to go ahead and do that and plan for next year.”

He said he is currently working with the Salem R-80 administration about scheduling a date in January for Dancing With the Salem Stars, one of the Foundation’s biggest events of the year.

• Under new business, the board voted to purchase a Canon Medical portable x-ray unit for the radiology department for $116,000. Lucas said Canon had offered lease-purchase financing, but he planned to see what leasing options were available locally.

• The board also elected new officers. Outgoing chairman Dennis Fiebelman offered a slate of Judy Thompson as chairman, Ray Bruno as vice chairman and Mike Swyers as secretary. It was approved by acclamation.

• The 2020 public tax levy hearing is set for 5:45 p.m. Aug. 18, just prior to the regular monthly meeting.