Beaufort News

Beaufort Naval Hospital, VA in Charleston unveil $2.3 million MRI

For years, officials from Naval Hospital Beaufort and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston lobbied for federal funding for a mobile MRI machine for their hospitals but were rebuffed.

Those same officials gathered at the Naval Hospital for a small ceremony Tuesday to unveil $2.3 million in new medical imaging equipment they finally acquired by joining forces last year. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which had denied the previous requests, liked the combined effort and awarded the money.

"In early 2011, (leaders from both hospitals) thought ... that together we had a better chance of getting the funding for this equipment approved, and they were right," Capt. Joan Queen, the naval hospital's commanding officer, said.

The hospitals proposed paying for the equipment through the DoD-VA Joint Incentive Fund, Naval Hospital officials said.

The fund, which had about $30 million this year, helps pay for projects that allow local, regional and national Defense Department and VA facilities to share resources, according to federal officials.

The new machine, which will stay in Beaufort, will save the two hospitals nearly $1 million a year because they won't have to refer patients to other hospitals for MRIs, officials said.

The recent collaboration is the latest installment in a partnership that formally began in 2001, when a VA community-outreach clinic opened at the Naval Hospital, making it easier for area veterans to seek basic care.

The Naval Hospital treats only active-duty service members, their dependents, and military retirees with at least 20 years of service. The Charleston VA hospital treats all veterans.

The Beaufort clinic and the military hospital share radiology, laboratory and podiatry services and might soon share mental health services, according to Carolyn Adams, director of the Charleston VA hospital.

"We are two strong health care organizations, but together we can be an even better provider of quality health care to our nation's heroes," Adams said.

The Naval Hospital has already begun using the new MRI equipment, officials said.

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