MRI facility opens for business at Fort Rucker
Greg Huff, Lyster Army Health Clinic MRI technologist, prepares Capt. Vernice Favor-Williams to enter the installation's new MRI machine, July 14. The equipment is a joint venture between LAHC and Veterans Affairs Wiregrass Outpatient Clinic staff. Favor-Williams was the first patient to utilize the service.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Staff at the installation's new MRI facility welcomed their first patient in mid-July after Lyster Army Health Clinic and Veterans Affairs Wiregrass Outpatient Clinic officials opened the joint facility last month.

This is the beginning of a more easily accessible healthcare era for local Tricare Prime beneficiaries and VA members, staff said. Soldiers, Families, retirees and veterans previously had to obtain MRI services off post, requiring some to drive several hours for care.

"Our plans are to continue to improve Lyster Army Health Clinic. Lyster is already a magnificent facility and has an excellent staff. We will continue to build on that and continue to strive for improvements for both the staff and our beneficiaries," said Col. Patrick Denman, U.S. Army Aeromedical Center commander.

Greg Huff, LAHC MRI technologist, agreed.

"It's more convenient for the patients. They come to one place (for the test), have it read here and get a report," he said.

Beside saving patients time and money, the new machine is more open than traditional tunnel models, allowing patients a 270-degree view from where they lay, Huff said. This offers claustrophobic or anxious individuals a more comfortable experience.

MRIs can scan any body part, and show more soft tissue than traditional X-rays do, he noted. It also replaces more invasive procedures once required for diagnosis.

The MRI here has a stronger magnet than older systems, according to MRI Technologist Tim Roberts.

"Stronger magnets give us better image quality," he said.

The technology has only been on the market about 18 months and allows staff to potentially offer more advanced exams in the future, Roberts said. This will benefit active duty Soldiers, their Families and the growing retiree population.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for Soldiers, retirees and Families (because) the VA and Army decided to install the MRI here," Huff said. "It's a win-win (situation) for everybody."

Capt. Vernice Favor-Williams, LAHC Primary Care assistant head nurse, was Huff's first patient July 12. She said she previously underwent MRIs in both tunnel and open-view machines, and said her test experience was superb.

"It wasn't as intimidating (as tunnel MRIs). I'm slightly claustrophobic, so (this MRI) made me more relaxed," she said.

The facility's proximity to her office made the procedure even easier.

"As assistant head nurse, my time during the day is limited, so the fact that I didn't have to drive away from the facility and take time away from my job allows me to get services I need but also be able to do my job," Favor-Williams said.

Huff and Roberts' friendly attitudes and combined 30 years of experience made her feel she was receiving quality care, she said.

"The people who took care of me were excellent," Favor-Williams said. "There is nothing like going somewhere you know people want to take care of you. You're not just a number in a line. (It's) more of a Family taking care of another Family member."

The facility, located in Bldg. 301, is adjacent to LAHC's west side. There is designated patient parking in front of the building, said Martha Frausto, LAHC public affairs officer. Facility hours are Mondays through Fridays, from 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Eight daily appointments are split between Lyster and VA beneficiaries. Patients must be referred by their primary care managers in order to obtain MRI tests, Frausto said.

Page last updated Fri July 23rd, 2010 at 09:38