Cantwell visits new wing at Clarkston’s TriState Health

This photo is taken down the center of a CT scanner. In the opening of the scanner, Sen. Maria Cantwell is pictured to the right.
Sen. Maria Cantwell is shown the Aquilion Prime SP CT system at TriState Health Wednesday in Clarkston. (Credit: August Frank / The Lewiston Tribune)



Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, visited TriState Health last week, along with local leaders, to tour the hospital’s imaging center and equipment purchased as part of the TriState Health Imaging Project.

Cantwell helped secure $2.5 million in funding for the project as part of a Congressionally Directed Spending request for the 2023 fiscal year. The funding helped the hospital purchase two new CT scanners and an MRI machine as a part of a broader $39 million expansion.

Supporting health care infrastructure in rural communities is a top priority, Cantwell said.

People always think about Washington as this high-tech state. In reality, agriculture is still the number one employer,” she said. “For our agricultural economy to work, we have to have communities with the infrastructure to support them … that means they don’t have to travel miles and miles away, just to get the care.”

The imaging center includes a new 320-slice CT scanner, which allows for clinicians to provide improved low dose lung cancer screenings, cardiac CT scanning, better image quality and quicker scan times. 

CT scans are used for diagnosing causes of strokes, soft tissue damage in head injuries, some tumors and abnormal blood vessels.

“Having a quality image is so important,” said Rick Wasem, a member of TriState Health’s board of directors. “I got to see the same scan from the old CT next to the new one up on the screen. (There is) absolutely no comparison.”

Previously, the hospital had one CT scanner that was over 15 years old and approaching the end of its functional use. An average of five patients each week were turned away due to limited availability before the purchase of the new scanner, according to a media release.

“I’m just really happy to see such a robust diagnostic system established and happy to support it,” Cantwell said. “There are other places in this state that would be envious to have these facilities.”

Before the purchase of the new MRI machine, the hospital had one MRI machine from 2006 that was nearing the end of its life, according to the media release.

MRIs are used to help diagnose problems with tumors, liver disease, pancreas abnormalities, inflammatory bowel disease and heart problems associated with congenital heart disease. 

The imaging center also includes ultrasound and 3D mammography, which allows for earlier detection of breast cancer.

“I’ve been here 29 years,” said Wendy Stirnkorb, director of imaging services. “It’s changed a lot. We’re catching things we would never have seen, even with digital mammography.”

Cantwell was joined on the tour by TriState staff and hospital board members.