MRI unit has a new home

A crane operator removes an MRI magnet from a flatbed trailer at the Western Maryland Health System’s new hospital on Willowbrook Road Monday afternoon.

CUMBERLAND — It takes more than a 50-ton crane and a flatbed truck to move an 11,000-pound magnet from one end of Cumberland to another.

It takes courage.

“A whole lot of things can go wrong,” said Sandi Cassidy, who oversaw the giant MRI magnet’s transfer from the old hospital to the new hospital Monday morning.

The size of a Volkswagen Bug, the equipment traveled via flatbed truck from Western Maryland Health System’s Braddock campus to its new regional medical center on Willowbrook Road, which is scheduled to open in late November.

It took about four hours for hospital staff and a dozen hard-hat-wearing workers from Century Heavy Hauling in Pittsburgh to disconnect and load the device.

“I’m nervous and thrilled,” said Cassidy, director of diagnostic imaging at WMHS, after watching the crane slowly lower the magnet onto the truck. “This is the first real, tangible ‘Oh my gosh, we’re moving into a new hospital in November.’ This is big doings.”

The new regional hospital, located near Allegany College of Maryland and the Allegany County Health Department, is about 90 percent complete, said Kathy Rogers, director of community relations.

Officially, moving day is Nov. 21. That’s when WMHS plans to close its Braddock and Memorial campuses and move patients to the new Willowbrook Road campus, Rogers said. But staff and equipment will be moving bit by bit in the months ahead.

“It’s a very well orchestrated plan that we’ve developed,” Rogers said, adding that the Information Technology department has already moved into the Willowbrook office building. Switchboard operators are to move on Wednesday, followed by other non-patient care areas such as nurse managers and administrators.

The MRI magnet, which made it successfully to its new home Monday, is the first major piece of equipment to make the trip. Today, hospital staff will do it all over again when a second, more technologically advanced MRI is to be delivered to the Willowbrook Road site.

“We’ve actually been six months in the pre-planning just for this move,” Cassidy said, adding that Monday’s transfer went “flawlessly.”

“Good job,” she said to the crew. “You guys make it look easy.”

Contact Kristin Harty at

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