Patients at Memorial Community Hospital & Health System soon will benefit from studies using the latest in x-ray technology made possible through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program.

The trust has awarded Blair-based MCHHS $279,062 for a digital upgrade of the main radiology room and a digital panel for the second radiology room. The grant is part of the trust’s $14.2 million initiative to upgrade x-ray technology at 50 rural hospitals in the Upper Midwest.

“We are grateful for the support from the Helmsley Charitable Trust,” said Manny Wolf, Memorial Community Hospital & Health System president and CEO. “The grant will provide us with the ability to deliver the safest and highest quality radiologic services for our patients. In addition, the updated system at the main hospital campus also allows for Memorial Community Hospital & Health System to offer enhanced diagnostic abilities in our soon to open new Cottonwood Clinic in Tekamah.”

The upgrade at the Blair hospital makes available the hospital’s current x-ray technology for reuse in the Tekamah clinic currently under construction.

Walter Panzirer, a trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said the initiative represents the organization’s latest multi-site initiative to improve the quality of healthcare available to rural residents in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

“Our goal has always been to improve access to exceptional medical treatment for those who live in rural America,” said Panzirer. “To that end, rural hospitals need to remain viable and have the latest equipment to ensure their patients can receive essential, quality healthcare services locally. This initiative is just one of many that strives to improve healthcare outcomes throughout the Upper Midwest.”

Panzirer said critical access hospitals in the seven-state region are hampered by outdated equipment. Over the last four years, the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program has awarded more than $30 million in grants to 82 hospitals in the Upper Midwest to purchase state-of-the-art computer tomography (CT) scanners, including one installed at MercyOne in Oakland.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s latest initiative addresses out-of-date x-ray technology that underserves patients and jeopardizes the health of physicians and x-ray technicians, according to Panzirer.

The $14.2 million in grants will allow replacement of a total of 87 pieces of equipment, including: 32 fixed x-ray devices with an average age of 16 years; 47 portable x-ray devices with an average age of 28 years; three fixed fluoroscopy devices averaging nine years; and five portable C-arms with an average age of 16 years.

“Technology has advanced so much, even over the last decade, that these grants, will provide incredible benefits for medical workers and their patients for the foreseeable future,” Panzirer said.