First Nations and rural communities in Québec better served with freshly funded teleconsultation network

Abiti-Témiscamingue 04 February 2002Following an announcement made by Anne McLellan, the Canadian Minister of Health, the Government of Canada will contribute $900.000 to the primary care telemedicine and distance nursing network in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The Centre de Santé Sainte-Famille, a family health centre in the rural West Québec region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue is leading a telehealth project which will bring primary medical services to four isolated sites, including an Aboriginal community.

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Health Canada's contribution to the project will help create an information network system allowing live consultations between a physician located in an urban community, and a nurse and patient at a rural health centre. This gives patients in remote areas greater access to diagnoses and treatments by facilitating direct consultations with primary care physicians, and reduces patient and medical personnel travel in a very large geographical area of 20.000 square kilometres.

"Our aim is to build a telehealth network to improve service delivery to people living in rural and First Nations communities in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region", stated Minister McLellan. "This project reflects the Government of Canada's commitment to develop an efficient and acceptable health system through better use of information and communications technologies."

In partnership with the Université du Québec in Abititi-Témiscamingue, the Winneway First Nations and private sector technology providers Abbott Laboratories, Tanberg Canada, and Télébec, the Centre is building a two-way video-conferencing network that will link patients at the remote sites to primary care physicians at the Centre's emergency department.

"This project is innovative", added Minister McLellan. "I am confident that it will benefit physicians and nurses, as well as provide greater accessibility and continuity of care to all Abitibi-Témiscamingue residents." Funding for this project originates from the Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Programme (CHIPP), a two-year, $80 million federal programme announced by Minister Allan Rock in June 2000, along with the Government of Canada's rural health strategy.

With nurses at the remote sites manipulating a range of scopes, tests, and other medical equipment, the video and audio technology will enable the consulting physician to conduct real time "virtual examinations" for a variety of conditions including:

  • skin lesions and rashes;
  • asthma attacks;
  • heart murmurs;
  • blood irregularities; and
  • eye problems.

Diagnosing from a distance allows the physician to decide whether the patient will need to travel for further examination by a specialist, or can be treated locally by nursing staff. The secure network will be designed to provide services as needed, up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In time, it can be expanded to include private clinical practices, pharmacies, and psycho-social consultations.

The network will improve access to health care services to the 18.000 residents of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region who have long been under-served because of their remote location. The project will implement fair information practices and proven information technology solutions in order to protect the security and confidentiality of personal health information.

The signature of the CHIPP Health Agreement by all Canadian First Ministers, in September 2000, laid the foundation for ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration in developing and implementing the Canadian Health Infostructure with the Government of Canada investing an additional $500 million in a targeted fund for health information technology. More news about Canadian telehealth initiatives is available in the following VMW articles:


Leslie Versweyveld

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