BENSON — Despite an overcast, blustery day, Benson Hospital held a groundbreaking ceremony in celebration of a new state-of-the art imaging suite planned for the facility, representing an addition to the hospital that will enhance efficiencies for patients and staff.

“While this isn’t exactly the weather that we planned for, nor the weather that I ordered ... It highlights the incredible need for this project that we’re going to announce today,” hospital CEO Julia Strange said in her opening remarks.

Other than the actual groundbreaking, the ceremony was moved indoors because of the uncooperative weather.

Strange said the hospital has an excellent imaging department, but one of the challenges is that the CT is located outside the main hospital, so patients have to be transported outside the hospital to get their CTs.

“The current CT unit is effective, but it’s not the experience we want to create for our patients,” Strange said.

She also noted that Benson Hospital partners with Radiology LTD of Tucson for all its radiology reads.

Strange praised the hospital’s leadership team, board of trustees, staff and the community support the facility receives.

“While today may be cloudy, our future is certainly bright at Benson Hospital,” she said, prior to introducing Ann Cook, a hospital board member she referred to as one of the hospital’s “greatest champions.”

Cook said when she arrived in Benson from Michigan in 1970, the hospital had just been built.

She spoke of how, through the years, the hospital managed to add an emergency department, extra rooms for specialists to come in from out of town to see patients, and found ways to purchase imaging equipment.

“As other rural hospitals were biting the dust and closing their doors, we were hanging on,” she said.

With funding becoming more difficult for hospitals, Cook said the Benson Hospital was fortunate that Tucson Medical Center came in to help with some of the facility’s financial challenges.

Describing the staff as “wonderful,” Cook said people often tell her they would rather go to Benson than any other hospital.

Executive Director of Outpatient Services Amanda Osuna is heading the imaging suite project, which she said has represented a year of planning, as she works with the architect and contractor.

The imaging suite includes 2,800 square feet of new construction that will house the imaging equipment, along with 1,440 square feet of remodel. The suite will be located on the northwest side of the existing building and will feature a new outpatient entrance.

“We’re going to have a ring road that will start at the north of the property and go all the way around the building so you can access our new outpatient area from either direction,” said Ousana, who also mentioned the equipment.

“The CT scanner is a GE scanner, and the first one of its type installed in Arizona,” she said. “The X-ray equipment is the best GE has to offer, with less radiation to the patient.”

The convenience of the easily accessible, comprehensive radiology suite and speed of the new equipment is a huge benefit for the patients. Exams will be completed in a much safer, more efficient manner with reliable results, shortening time spent in the ER and outpatient areas, Osuna said. Providers will have the highest quality images available.

“I’m happy we’re at this point and we have a great team in place to make all this happen for the patients,” she said.

Benson Mayor Joe Konrad presented Strange with a key to the city in recognition of the hospital’s contributions to the community.

“This new addition will bring capabilities to our local hospital that were only available at larger out-of-town hospitals,” Konrad said.

The imaging services, he added, will bring people to Benson, along with an added bonus of “the creation and retention of good paying, stable jobs right here at home.”

Konrad also praised the hard work and dedication of all those who staff the facility.

“You all have, most recently, stepped up to help navigate our community through the COVID pandemic,” he said. “You stepped up in a big way and words can’t describe the gratitude that is felt for you being here for us.

“Thank you Benson Hospital for being such a valuable resource and a community partner. We welcome this new imaging center to our city.”