St. John’s Hospital Brings Cutting-Edge Technology to Libby

By Beacon Staff

St. John’s Lutheran Hospital in Libby has begun using a cutting-edge medical test that can differentiate between viral and bacterial infections and could help patients avoid unnecessary treatments and costly hospital stays. According to Lab Manager Roger Riddle, the Mini Vidas testing machine is the first of its kind in Northwest Montana.

Riddle said the new form of testing is faster and more reliable than anything else in the medical field. This specific technology has been available for less than five years, Riddle said.

“It’s a huge step forward for patients and the testing process,” he said. “You can imagine the savings to the taxpayers, the patients and the hospital.”

In the past, doctors have been able to test for viral and bacterial infections, but the results were never certain, which, Riddle said, would occasionally lead to doctors prescribing unnecessary antibiotics.

The new Mini Vidas equipment arrived in October and can perform a Procalcitonin Assay test with a simple blood sample. The addition of the new machine and testing procedure is thanks in part to Dr. Nicolle Benz.

“This test aids in the risk assessment of critically ill patients or those with early infection that could lead to serious illness in the Emergency Department, on admission to the hospital or in the ICU setting,” she said in a press release. “It helps in the early and correct detection and diagnosis of infection.”

The new testing can also detect severe sepsis or septic shock. Benz said sepsis is a documented or suspected infection with one or more additional factors that indicate significant illness to the immune system.

Riddle said the hospital’s board and administration deserved much of the credit for going forward with the purchase of the machine.

“Our physicians have grabbed on to it and have started running with it,” he said. “We’ve used it many times.”

St. John’s Lutheran Hospital was established in Libby nearly 60 years ago. The hospital is currently located on Louisiana Avenue, but recently broke ground on a new 79,000-square-foot facility. Officials hope the new hospital will open sometime in 2014.

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