Erlanger Health System plans to move forward with construction, services and equipment to install Erlanger’s first PET/CT in Plaza Radiology on the first floor of the Medical Mall.
The hospital also plans to build a new $1.6 million Regional Operations Center for LifeForce helicopter patients.
COO Rob Brooks and Tanner Goodrich, administrator of Oncology, Radiology and Women’s Services at Erlanger, sought approval from trustees on Monday night to move forward with the new PET/CT scanner.
They said the primary use of the scanner will be for the diagnosis and staging of certain types of cancer.
“Over the course of the next decade, the incidence of cancer is expected to continue its fast-paced growth,” Mr. Goodrich told trustees. Increases in incidence, combined with improvements to care and longer life expectancies will translate into increasing volumes in both the inpatient and outpatient setting.
Officials said, "With the availability of a PET/CT scanner at Erlanger, local cancer patients will have an opportunity to receive comprehensive services under one roof, and enable the health system to elevate its academic profile since there are still significant research opportunities in the areas of oncology and neurosciences."
Mr. Brooks said, “Patients will no longer have to leave Erlanger’s system of care to receive this critical service. Also, as the region’s leading Neurosciences Center, Erlanger will be able to capitalize on the emerging application of using PET/CT to diagnose neurodegenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease."
Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel told trustees that “to have a complete comprehensive cancer center, you want a PET/CT scanner to be part of that arsenal.”
The budgeted cost for this implementation project is $770,000, with the PET/CT equipment being leased from Siemens for an annual payment of $365,000. Erlanger trustees voted to approve the project.
The second resolution introduced by Mr. Brooks and Robbie Tester, LifeForce Pre-Hospital Care, Event and Disaster Medicine and Regional Operations Center administrator, was the proposal to consolidate operations of the LifeForce Communication Center, Chattanooga MedComm, (Ground EMS transport service communications operation) and the Erlanger Patient Logistics operations (transfer and bed placement) into one location.
Currently the Patient Logistics center, which houses Erlanger's transfer center and bed placement operations, is located on the first floor of the central wing. The LifeForce flight operations and Chattanooga MedComm Center are on the fourth floor of the main parking garage.
Mr. Teeter said the project "will create a state-of-the-art consolidated operations center fully focused on patient acceptance, transport, transfers, capacity and throughput.” He added that this consolidation would enable Erlanger to become a true “one call” center for patients, and the region’s “only choice” for patients, physicians, hospitals and EMS agencies across the region.
Mr. Brooks said, “More than 50 percent of our patient volume comes from outside Hamilton County, and we know that the facility that is the easiest to access, the friendliest, and offers the full scope of services will receive the patient.”
He noted that competition among other tertiary care systems like Vanderbilt, UT Knoxville and Grady has never been greater. “This will help us streamline our operations, become more efficient and more customer friendly,” he added.
Total project cost for the consolidation project is $1.6 million. Of this, approximately $500,000 will come from the sale of the air ambulance hangar, helipad and fuel tank at the LifeForce base in Blue Ridge, Ga. and $300,000 from the sale of the hangar and related facilities at the LifeForce Sparta base to Med-Trans Corporation. Remaining costs will be covered by operational leases to Med-Trans and Puckett EMS.
Both Med-Trans and Puckett EMS will lease space in the new EROC to conduct operations related to air and ground transport. Expected patient revenue on this consolidation project is approximately $1.76 million over the next year.
The Budget and Finance committee also voted unanimously to approve this resolution, and construction is expected to be completed in the next 120 days, if not sooner.