Northern Ontario hospitals connect to provincial network

Sioux Lookout 21 March 2006James Bay General Hospital in Moosonee, and Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory are now connected to the province's health care telecommunications network. This means they can now access services such as patient-doctor videoconferences with specialists in other parts of Ontario.

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The provincial Ontario Network for e-Health (ONE) Network, a managed private network exclusively for health care providers, is run by Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA), an agency of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. SSHA worked with K-Net Services, a publicly funded, non-profit broadband network that is a service of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, a tribal council organisation from northwestern Ontario, to link the two hospitals.

"SSHA and K-Net provide an invaluable service that will help us deliver a new level of patient care", stated Wes Drodge, the new CEO of James Bay General Hospital. "There will now be less need for our patients to travel, which will dramatically improve their quality of life - in many cases, patients will receive health care right here in their own community", Wes Drodge stated.

SSHA and K-Net Services used teamwork and technology to connect the hospitals in one of Ontario's most challenging locations. "SSHA has now connected all public hospitals in Ontario to our network, an effort which began in 2001", stated Laurie Hicks, SSHA Vice President of Client Services.

In particular, over the past five years, ONE Network's benefits to Ontario hospitals include:

  • Saving them money by reducing the need for many networks
  • Validating Health Cards
  • Participating in the wait list management solutions of Cancer Care Ontario, the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario and the Trillium Gift of Life Network
  • Integrating services at multi-site hospitals
  • Integrating hospital services across a region
  • Connecting doctors to hospital systems
  • Sharing hospital discharge information with Community Care Access Centres
  • Providing Voice over IP capabilities

"Connecting an isolated community to the rest of the provincial health care system is good news for Ontario. But it is particularly good news for the people of western James Bay coast. It will eventually improve access to specialists and provide a reliable direct connection with other hospitals", Laurie Hicks stated. "I am pleased that we were able to leverage the local expertise and connectivity offered by K-Net."

Geordi Kakepetum, Executive Director of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, agreed: "This service will improve access to specialized health care services for people who have distance, geography and weather challenges in this part of the province." Brian Beaton, K-Net Services Co-ordinator, added: "Connecting these hospitals posed unique technological challenges because of the distance. The reward was significant. It allowed us to provide connectivity to northern and First Nations communities."

The network will also allow James Bay General Hospital and the Weeneebayko General Hospital to access other services in future such as validating Health Cards and providing access to Emergency Departments so they can access a patient's Ontario Drug Benefit information from a Ministry application hosted by SSHA. Future ONE Network connections are planned to other First Nations, health care providers in other Aboriginal communities and aboriginal clinics across Ontario.


Leslie Versweyveld

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