TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Cherokee Nation leaders unveiled a $2 million mobile MRI unit Friday at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
“Cherokee Nation continues our investment in health care with this state-of-the-art, patient-centered imaging technology that represents the next generation of clinical care,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “I’m extremely proud of our efforts to ensure the story of the Cherokee people continues by improving the health and quality of life for our citizens. Our record investment in our best-in-Indian-Country health care system is positively changing the lives of Cherokee families for generations to come.”
The tribe purchased the mobile MRI unit as part of a $6 million investment in diagnostic imaging across the tribe’s health service system.
Hastings patients received MRI services off-site prior to receiving the MRI unit.
“Providing hospital and emergency MRIs has been challenging for patients and staff. This unit will decrease the length of time from order placement to exam completion, providing results more efficiently, and will increase capacity of daily in-patient and emergent MRI scans performed,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Director Dr. R. Stephen Jones. “Having the unit on-site at the hospital eliminates the need for Hastings EMS to transport patients to other sites for MRI studies. This will allow increased access for other patient transfers, thus increasing patient care and satisfaction.”
Cherokee Nation officials said the new MRI system has an artificial intelligence software engine that provides a quieter, faster and more comfortable experience for patients than traditional MRI technology used in on-site health facilities.
“Patients will be given the choice to scan either head first or feet first for each scan to help mitigate any problems with claustrophobia,” Jones said. “The quieter operation and wide bore of this system will help ease the apprehension often felt by many of our patients.”
The mobile MRI unit will also enhance the hospital’s Acute Stroke Ready Certification and stroke care provided through a partnership with the Regional Brain Institute.
“This unit will allow for better practices that help meet the requirements of our Acute Stroke Ready Certification and allow us to proceed with additional stroke center certifications, making us the only hospital in the region with a nationally certified stroke program,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery. “Having an MRI on-site also allows faster follow-up exams for the patients being cared for by our team of specialists from RBI.”
Cherokee leaders in 2021 agreed to invest $400 million to build a new hospital in Tahlequah to replace the nearly 40-year-old W.W. Hastings Hospital with new hospital technology.
The new mobile MRI unit can be repurposed and used to provide services for more patients through other Cherokee Nation Health Services facilities once the new hospital is built and equipped with the latest MRI technology.