A new Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine at the Nome hospital will save lives. That’s according to Preston Rookok, board member for the Norton Sound Health Corporation. The new machine will also save money and travel time.
Rookok said the Nome hospital became “the first Native-owned hospital in the nation to have an MRI machine.” About 350 patients leave Western Alaska each year for MRI services for disease diagnosis or trauma evaluation. Flying to cities like Anchorage is a common necessity for patients who have specialized needs. For injury emergencies and acute medical conditions, the factor of time is most critical. Even “medevac” flights can take hours to get from Western Alaska villages to MRI-capable hospitals. Such trips are unavoidably expensive and time-consuming, involving hotel stays and multiple flights that could be delayed or cancelled by inclement weather.
Rookok told those who gathered to dedicate the MRI that regional access to an MRI machine will have a profound effect on patient diagnosis and outcome. Rookok represents Savoonga on the NSHC board. He explained that in 2007, when multiple people on St. Lawrence Island died of cancer, an MRI machine in Nome might have led to earlier diagnoses — and survival. The machine will certainly change the course for patients in the near future.
Image at top: The ribbon-cutting at Nome’s Norton Sound Regional Hospital on Wed., Jan. 30, 2019. At front center are, left to right: NSHC directors Berda Willson, Alfred Sahlin, and, holding the scissors, Alice Fitka. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.