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July 22, 2013

Fauquier Health gets closer to OK for second MRI unit

This Hitachi Oasis MRI unit would make scans more comfortable for a range of patients, Fauquier Health officials say.
Virginia Department of Health officials on Friday recommended approval of Fauquier Health’s application to install a second MRI unit.

The Warrenton hospital would spend $2.8 million to install a Hitachi Oasis “open bore” scanner by early next year, if state Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero gives the OK, which could come in August.

Dr. Romero’s agency conducted a July 11 public hearing in Warrenton on Fauquier Health’s application for a Certificate of Public Need.

“We are pleased that our new open MRI has been recommended for approval by the COPN division of the Virginia Department of Health and anticipate we’ll have final approval from the health commissioner by the end of September,” Fauquier Health President/CEO Rodger Baker said. “Our medical imaging staff members look forward to offering this expanded service to our patients.”

The hospital a decade ago installed a “small bore” MRI unit, which operates seven days a week. Since May 2010, it also has leased a mobile unit two days a week.

The original unit in 2011 operated at 118-percent of the level state regulators deem sufficient to consider another machine, according to the staff report (embedded below).

The number of MRI scans at the hospital has increased about 5 percent annually the last several years.

An open unit “would allow the MRI service to expand for those who are claustrophobic or too large for the traditional MRI closed-bore system,” Fauquier Health spokeswoman Robin Earl said of the hospital’s application, filed Feb. 19. “The new system allows for better physician access to the patient and in pediatric cases, allows for constant parent-child contact, which dramatically improves the child’s ability to cooperate for a good diagnostic scan.”

It also would make money for the hospital.

Fauquier Health’s application projects the new MRI unit would produce profits of $1.3 million in fiscal 2015 and $952,000 in 2016.

The staff recommendation says Fauquier Health “must provide MRI services to all persons in need . . . regardless of their ability to pay and will provide as charity care to all indigent persons free MRI services and rate reductions and facilitate the development and operation of primary care medical services to medically underserved persons in an aggregate amount equal to at least 4.7 percent of The Fauquier Hospital Inc.’s gross patient services revenue derived from MRI services.”

In 2011, the hospital had $291.7 million in gross revenues, according to the staff report. It provided charity care worth $9.9 million or 3.4 percent of gross revenues.

Fauquier Health officials must accept the condition for charity care by the close of business Wednesday, July 24, for the application to move forward.

“I have already signed the paperwork accepting the recommendation and the conditions for approval, which require that Fauquier Hospital provide 4.7 percent of MRI revenue as charity care,” Mr. Baker said. “This should not be an issue for us.”

Congressman Robert Hurt (R-Va./5th), the Fauquier County Chamber of Commerce and local government officials have sent the state agency letters of support for the hospital’s application.

8009 Recommendation & Staff Report by Fauquier Now

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