By Sebastian Moraga

The scene almost speaks for itself.

Right outside the room with some of the newest, most advanced equipment the Quincy Valley Medical Center has under its roof, there’s a man squatting and, with his bare hand, slapping a grill to get the wall heater behind it to work right.

“We didn’t stage that for you,” says the chief executive officer of QVMC, Glenda Bishop.

Such competing realities are par for the course for the QVMC, with technological advancements competing with the need for a sweater.

Still, there’s no question that these are good days at the QVMC. Not only did their levy pass, helping shrink what once was a $5 million debt, but also, its radiology department nears entering the first full year with some pretty fancy gadgets.

“We were able to experience a significant upgrade in 2021,” Bishop said.

When a department like radiology gets behind in technology, it’s pretty hard to catch up, Bishop said, so the fact that the radiology department was able to catch up, it’s a pretty big deal, considering how it’s radiology that handles all the imaging for the hospital, its emergency room, its rural clinics and serves as backup for the Community Health Center.

“We are so excited about the changes here,” Bishop said. And with just reason. The equipment that was replaced last year was already more than 20 years old, nearing end of life, and not too user-friendly.

Standing a few feet above the ground, patients had to get on a platform or a stool in order to reach the bed, which was stationary. And these are patients needing an X-ray, so movement wasn’t exactly an easy task.

“If you got an elderly person, like me, I would have to be lifted onto the bed, or I would have to get up there by myself,” Bishop said. “And I’m getting old, so that could be tough.”

Furthermore, with more than two decades since the equipment could be deemed new, finding parts for its generator had become harder.

“When that generator went, we’re done,” Bishop said, narrating a worst-case scenario that thankfully never occurred. With the rest of the system getting on in years, any sort of breakdown could mean a weeks-long hiatus until it could be used again.

The new bed does not only move side to side and up and down, but it sits on a platform that is slimmer than the old one, which leaves room for technicians and nurses to work with a patient from all sides. The fact that the bed moves keeps the staff from having to worry about moving a patient around to get an image.

“Sometimes, we would have to tell doctors, ‘We need your muscles,’ but we don’t want them doing that,” Bishop said. “Ergonomically is not safe.”

New equipment like this does a tremendous job of improving staff and patient safety, Bishop added,

The process got streamlined, too, with the department switching from CR (computer radiography) to digital radiography, said Veronica Cruz, the radiology department manager. As opposed to digital, CR “is not like an instant image,” Cruz said, “it’s a step below digital.” Bishop added that going digital also reduced the radiation, and ensures that diagnostic imaging is always available at QVMC.

“With technology changing, and changing and changing, It’s hard for a small facility like ours to keep up with technology,” Cruz said. “So we are a few years behind, but we tried to make some changes for our patients.”

Bishop said that Cruz, a member of the department for more than 20 years, had all this new equipment on her wishlist for several years, and was “a happy, happy girl” when it finally arrived.

Wanting to eliminate debt and wanting new equipment makes for a tricky balancing act, Bishop said, “so we were really thrilled when we had the opportunity to do this,” she said.

A grant from the state department of health paid for the majority (about $83,000) of the $112,000 total cost of the overhaul, which included new floors and fresh paint for the radiology rooms.

“When they recognized, when they read the narrative we wrote of how important it was to ensure that our imaging department be always available to our 24/7 emergency department, they were quick to approve that purchase,” Bishop said.

The rest of the money came from the hospital.

One important aspect of bringing all this new equipment in was the impact it had on patients and staff. Patients noticed right away the fancier toys, and staff morale got a boost when the new toys started making life easier for all involved.

“It’s important for staff to know that we are looking for ways to keep the technology current in the departments they work in,” Bishop said.

Another important aspect of the purchase was ensuring that the equipment was moveable. The new gadgets may be new, but the hospital that surrounds it is still a senior citizen, having opened in 1959.

Which brings us back to Shane, the gentleman squatting to get the heater to kick on, while the temperature outside struggled to climb into the double digits.

The hospital, Bishop said, is “in desperate need of being replaced.”

Thus, it was imperative that when the next item on the hospital’s wishlist got crossed off (a new building), that the radiology equipment could be moved to it.

As to when that next item gets crossed off, Bishop and Cruz just cross their proverbial fingers.

“It’s time.” she said. “When you come in and our maintenance technician is on the floor trying to get us heat…”

The thought trails off, perhaps taking stock of what a monumental task it will be to get a new hospital. But then it returns. Bishop looks around the room, at all the new equipment, at the smiling Cruz and then lets out one final reflection of the reality of the hospital.

“We are happy to be able to provide this for our community,” Bishop said. “They deserve it, and so does our staff.”

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