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ST. GEORGE — The largest construction project in Washington County history is taking shape and changing the skyline of St. George.
The project will consolidate two campuses and include a three-story cancer center.
"It will double the size of our hospital 500,000 square feet in addition to the existing 500,000 square feet. So, we will have a million square feet in hospital when we're finished," said Steven Caplin, chairman of the governing board of Intermountain Healthcare's Dixie Regional Medical Center.
The growth of southern Utah is the driving force for these changes.
"The community is growing in size, but the needs are growing as well. We have a large senior population and we have large families as well," Caplin said.
The newly expanded campus will include women and newborn services, trauma care, neurosurgery and cardiovascular services.
But it's what will happen behind these new walls that have doctors excited.
"This is going to help us elevate the care for our cancer patients and some of our movement disorder patients to the highest level that's available," said Benjamin Fox, Dixie Regional Medical Center's neurosurgery medical director.
It's called an interactive MRI. It's located right next to the operating room and will allow for real-time pictures. Medical Imaging Systems manager Darrell Hinton explained how it works.
"The patient's head is in, this is called a skull clamp, and (we) lay the patient on the surgical table. The patient will then go into the MRI magnet. We will hold them there for how many pictures we want to take," Hinton said.
Then it's out and back to surgery — without changing beds. Fox said DRMC will be the first Intermountain hospital to receive this technology, normally reserved for high academic and larger centers.
The interactive MRI is mainly used for patients with brain tumors, Parkinson's disease and those with central tremors.
"A lot of imaging we have currently relies on an MRI that's done before surgery," Fox said. "Things change during surgery. The brain shifts, fluids change, so you don't know what it really looks like. ... This will allow us to get real-time pictures while we're in the brain. "
It will take a forklift to put the MRI's superconductive 1.5 Tesla magnet in place.
Included in this huge consolidation plans and room for even more expansion as the population continues to grow.
The diagnostic and treatment area is scheduled to open next April, with other areas opening later in the year.