The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

MRI imaging now available at Valdez hospital

Facility opened last week for patients last week after years of effort


March 25, 2015

Valdez Star photo

Mayor Larry Weaver cut the ribbon Thursday on the MRI located at Providence Valdez Medical Center.

The sun was shining on Valdez last Thursday when a small group of city officials gathered with the good folks at Providence Valdez Medical Center to cut the ribbon, symbolically opening the hospital's new MRI facility.

The addition of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) adds a significant level of medical services available to Valdez patients – and the surrounding communities.

Until last week, patients in need of an MRI had to travel to Anchorage – which can be a dicey proposition when bad weather and ill health mix.

The $1.5 million dollar annex took several years of planning before becoming a reality according to city manager John Hozey, who told the assembled crowd it was a project he did not originally think could become a reality.

While MRI project was the top priority project on the master plan put together by the task force that was formed to put fourth recommendations to the city for future expansion of the hospital campus, onerous regulations came into play, which Hozey said threatened to scuttle the project on numerous occasions.

The City of Valdez owns the hospital and it is managed by Providence Alaska under a long-term contract.

The MRI itself is a refurbished GE 1.5 Tesla HDxt according to city documents on the project.

Valdez Star photo

City manager John Hozey, left, addresses the crowd at the MRI ribbon cutting ceremony. Dignitaries from the new facilities past and future stood waiting to say a few words, including former administrator Sean McAlister, Mayor Larry Weaver, Wasilla mayor Bert Cottle and hospital advisory member Pam Shirrell.

The City of Valdez hired the contractor Wolverine Supply to build the annex onto the existing hospital in a deal that was risky for both sides. The contract approved by council in February of 2014 called for a turn-key project. Due to a myriad of complex laws governing rural hospitals and funding for government paid medical care, the cost of the project in its entirety could not exceed $1.5 million total. It also had a strict deadline for completion – which was threatened when it was learned a significant upgrade would be needed to power the MRI. A short lead time for CVEA to procure and install the needed component was short.

The team from the city, hospital and contractors pulled through and the MRI and its imaging team performed the first MRI last week.

"Ski and snowmachine to your heart's content," joked Sean McAlister, the hospital's former administrator who is now the administrator for Providence Alaska's critical access hospitals, the new MRI can help patch you up.

The hospital's current administrator, Barb Bigelow, hosted the small ceremony that included prayers from local clergy, and words from Hozey, former Valdez mayor Bert Cottle and honors for the contractor. Mayor Larry Weaver cut the ribbon over the door.


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