BENSON — A new, state-of-the-art imaging suite, currently under construction at Benson Hospital, will bring added convenience and enhanced care for patients and hospital staff.

Benson Hospital is part of TMC HealthCare, which is the system that includes Tucson Medical Center. The alliance has helped Benson Hospital on several levels, particularly when it comes to financial advantages, said Benson Hospital Chief Executive Officer Julia Strange, who provided an update Tuesday at the Benson Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.

The $4 million imaging suite project is one example of how TMC Healthcare is able to invest in Benson. The project started in March and involves 2,800 square feet of new construction and 1,400 feet of remodel to the existing hospital.

“Benson Hospital is really strong and growing, so it’s very important for us to talk about investments that we’re making in the community,” Strange said in her opening remarks. “Obviously, COVID has been front and center, and our team has been very active in testing and vaccinations and we’re one of the few sites in the county that does the monochromal antibody treatments.”

When patients are diagnosed with COVID-19, the monochrome treatments help prevent hospitalization, reduce viral loads and lessen symptom severity.

Strange said about $5 million in capital improvements have been invested in the Benson hospital.

The money is being used to remodel patient rooms and a nurse’s station, improve flooring in the emergency room, open a rural health clinic in Vail and for the new imaging center.

“We expect (the imaging center) to be opening in December with the X-ray, DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) and ultrasound, but are waiting to get confirmation on our CT equipment,” Strange said.

The hospital will have a dedicated entrance for imaging on the north side of the building. All imaging services will be consolidated in the new suite, which gives staff state-of-the-art equipment and a state-of-the facility, Strange said.

“It’s going to improve patient safety, it’s going to improve efficiency and it’s going to make it so much easier on our staff,” she said.

With two primary care centers in Family Healthcare and the San Pedro Clinic, both part of the Benson Hospital, plans are underway for the rural health clinic in Vail.

Those kinds of expansions have allowed Benson Hospital, in alliance with TMC HealthCare, to expand its reach and geographical footprint in Southeastern Arizona, said Strange, who holds positions in Benson and TMC.

When touching on financial advantages tied to the TMC HealthCare connection, Strange said the financial margin earned in Benson is reinvested in Benson, the staff and the facilities. The hospital’s financial position puts it in a place that allows the facility to be competitive in terms of recruiting staff, Strange said.

“We’re in a position where we can really take steps to invest in the people who work here and invest in the people who work at Benson Hospital and call Benson home.”

Future upgrades for the hospital include adding a central supply building at the back of the campus. The addition will allow the hospital to take the space currently used for central supply and purchasing and turn it into an expanded inpatient and physical therapy department, to include speech and occupational therapy in an expanded area.

Other plans are to bring in a program for telecardiac rehab services.

“So, if you have a cardiac issue, you go into Tucson, you get care at one of the Tucson hospitals, and you would be able to access cardiac rehab right here. It’s one of the barriers that we’ve identified,” Strange said. “For people living in CC, it’s a long way to drive for an hour workout with an exercise physiologist.”

Retrofitting the front of the hospital in order to have a meeting room large enough for employees and members of the community to gather in one place is another improvement in the works.

“We’ve seen incredible growth in our emergency department,” Strange said. “Last year’s growth was 48%, which is much higher than budgeted.”

The department averages 30 to 40 visits a day, said Strange, who would like to see a Fast Track added to the department’s services.

One of the hospital’s greatest priorities is to put communities first, allowing patients to have access to health care where they live and work, Strange said. “This includes both inpatient and outpatient services