Resumption of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) service at the national referral hospital in Thimphu would be delayed by about a month due to logistics problems.

The only MRI machine in the country was in the process of upgradation. The hospital was not able to provide the service since October.

MRI is a safe, painless test that uses radio waves and energy from strong magnets to create detailed images of a body.

Prabha Katel, head of hospital’s bio-medical engineering services, said that before installing the upgraded equipment, a radio frequency (RF) test had to be conducted. “The test failed so we had to dismantle the ceiling and do re-panelling of the room.”

All high-end medical equipment has certain pre-installation requirements.

She said that it was important to fulfil the requirement for the safety of the patients and staff. “How soon we can complete the installation of the machine would depend on the time to complete the civil part of the work. The actual installation work could take about 15 days.”

Once the civil work is complete, RF test would be conducted again.

“After that, we are planning to dismantle the machine and install the upgraded one,” Prabha Katel said. “If we pass the RF test, we would have resumed the service by this month as planned.”

She added: “If we dismantle the machine now and don’t get through the RF test, we have to troubleshoot and find where the fault is because the magnetic is very strong and it will attract everything within a kilometre’s radius. We have to make sure that we pass the test for the safety of the patients and people working around.”

The hospital is in receipt of about five truckloads of the machine’s parts and is ready to install.

“As of now, we are preparing the room which includes re-ceiling and shielding work,” Prabha Katel said.

MRI service requirement normally is not a serious matter, she said. “More than half of the cases can be handled by CT scans.”

Patients who require MRI service were asked to wait for the service to resume since. The hospital sends patients who urgently require MRI service to Siliguri in India.

There are about 300 patients waiting for the service. “Once we resume the service, we will reduce the wait time by working full time,” she said.

The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba, in an earlier interview with Kuensel said that the MRI machine is more than 10 years old. The machine’s lifespan is only 10 years.

With new model MRI machines in the market, he said it was difficult to get spare parts for the old model.

He said the hospital either have to bring in new model machine or upgrade it. Likely the 1.5T GE Signa HD MRI at the hospital would be upgraded to Signa Explorer system.

Dechen Tshomo