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    This mammogram machine remains idle at Allen County Regional Hospital, awaiting a review for certification by the American College of Radiology.

Hospital seeks mammogram solution

The Iola Register

Mammography services at Allen County Regional Hospital could return this fall, CEO Tony Thompson said. 

The hospital lost accreditation of its mammography services in May 2017, when the American College of Radiology (ACR), acting on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, determined ACRH failed to meet “clinical image quality standards.” Since then, no mammograms have been performed at ACRH.

In the ongoing Ask the Register series, Iolan Travis West queried, “Why hasn’t ACRH provided mammogram services for over a year now? What has been the effect on women’s health?” 

Thompson said the road to reinstating mammography services is a long process. 

In early 2018, the hospital changed its imaging service provider and are now pursuing new accreditation through ACR, which will likely require hospital staff to implement required changes. Thompson said he didn’t want to speculate on what ACR would require.

The FDA ordered the hospital to stop performing mammography on May 23, 2017, and required notification of all patients who underwent mammograms between March 28, 2015, and May 19, 2017. 

Those patients were told to have their health care provider review the mammograms and determine if another examination at another facility was warranted.

Thompson said he could not discuss details or specific problems with mammography services because of confidentiality reasons. 

However, his recommendation at the time was that the hospital should secure a new imaging service provider.  

“My recommendation was we should have a fresh start,” Thompson said.

Hughes Radiology Services, under Dr. Kevin S. Hughes in Burlington, had provided those services, which include examination of a variety of radiology scans. Hughes said Tuesday he would not discuss the matter. 

Administrators chose United Imaging Consultants of Kansas City. The group “has a very robust peer-review process,” Thompson said, that automatically prompts radiologists to consider other studies that might apply to a situation. It also allows ACRH to compare its services to a national group, so they can make changes if they see areas of concern. Because the group is based in Kansas City, representatives are able to meet with the board on a quarterly basis. 

In order to receive accreditation, ACRH is required to file paperwork attesting to the education, training and certification of staff, from technologists to physicians; and reports from the physicist who reviews the hospital’s mammography equipment and company that maintains the equipment.

 

THOSE who need mammography services currently must travel to another facility, such as those in Chanute, Burlington or Garnett. Where a patient chooses to go is based on discussion with a physician.

Dr. Charles Wanker, who practices with the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas and serves as ACRH Chief of Staff, said they typically refer patients to hospitals in Chanute or Garnett, or to Burlington for Yates Center residents. 

“When I have a patient who comes in, I give them all the options,” Wanker said. “I think most of my patients have been understanding with situation. They’re like us. They’d rather get their care locally but right now, unfortunately, that’s not an option.”

Those who prefer to stay in Iola are referred to a mobile unit that comes to the Family Physicians clinic one a month, usually on a Tuesday. Insurance is accepted, but those who prefer 3-D mammogram services should contact their insurance company to see if there is an additional cost. Appointments can be made with or without a physician’s referral by calling 620-365-3115.

A representative of Anderson County Hospital in Garnett said figures were not readily available to determine how many Allen County patients use mammography services in Garnett, but the hospital advertises the service in the Allen County media market. Neosho Memorial Regional Hospital in Chanute also regularly advertises its mammography services.

 

MAMMOGRAPHY screening became widespread in the 1980s. Since then, the breast cancer death rate, unchanged for the previous 50 years, has dropped nearly 40 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute data. 

The 2019 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program, released earlier this week, shows about 34 percent of Allen County women on Medicare obtained a mammogram screening in 2016, the most recent year data was studied. That was similar to previous years, but below the state average of 43 percent. The top 10 percent of U.S. counties reported a rate of about 49 percent.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40. Numerous studies have shown that early detection of breast cancer – as with mammography – significantly improves breast cancer survival, the National Cancer Institute says.

ACRH will continue to pursue certification, Thompson said. 

“Over the years, we have been very diligent about recruitment of specialists to visit our community so our patients don’t have to travel outside our county,” Thompson said. “This is another example of that. It’s what we ought to be doing to address the needs of citizens of our county.”

 

VOTING concludes tonight on the next Ask The Register query.

The questions:

— If the second bond proposition passes, will they tear down the current science building? - Mark Hastings, Iola 

— Why aren’t the potholes all getting fixed on the old highway? - Sarah, Iola

Voters can vote on the question that interests them most--and submit their own-- here.

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