SSHA, Hydro One Telecom and Ontera join to implement innovative health care network in Northern Ontario

Toronto 09 August 2007Northern Ontario residents will soon benefit from improved access to health care as a result of the recent collaboration of Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA), Hydro One Telecom (HOT) and Ontera, a division of Ontario Northland. Representatives from the three agencies joined together with Nipissing MPP Monique Smith to make the announcement and share details of an innovative new telecommunications network that will benefit health care providers and in turn, residents in the region.

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SSHA is introducing a dedicated high performance network that will provide the backbone for technology enabled health care services which will be used by health care institutions and professionals across Ontario to share patient information securely and reliably. This represents a major upgrade to SSHA's network in terms of bandwidth and security.

Michael Lauber, Chair, SSHA Board of Directors, stated: "This network upgrade is already improving patient care. In pilot locations, the increased network capacity allows patients to have their x-rays and other diagnostic images viewed by radiologists in one hour rather than two days in the past. Images can now be sent electronically to specialists regionally or even provincially if needed, instead of being couriered. We are already working with hospitals in northern Ontario. If all goes well, they should have their network upgraded by the end of this year."

"Innovation and collaboration have become the hallmarks of our government's approach to many issues", Nipissing MPP Monique Smith stated. "The creation of this dedicated high performance network is a significant milestone in the growth of Ontera and will improve health care throughout northern Ontario."

"This is wonderful news for the North", commented the Honourable Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines. "It is great to see our provincial agencies working together to benefit the health care system in our region and the province."

HOT is providing the dedicated core section to SSHA's new telecommunications network and has selected Ontera to implement and connect all of the healthcare sites in northeastern Ontario, known as local health integration network (LHIN) 13 and to work in partnership with TBay Tel to implement all of the sites in northwestern Ontario, LHIN 14.

"Hydro One Telecom was very pleased to be awarded the Network Refresh Project by SSHA and it provides additional validation of the quality of our core network. The scope of the plan is tremendous and is matched by the geography and complexities of providing significantly improved health services across Ontario", commented Paul Marchant, President, Hydro One Telecom.

"Ontera's proven record of success allows us to create a partnership that delivers on an ambitious goal to provide northern Ontario residents the type of health care and services we want for our families, regardless of where we live. A programme like this one goes beyond providing a service; this initiative delivers an improved quality of life."

"We are excited to take part in this project, which will have significant positive outcomes for all northerners", stated Ted Hargreaves, Chair of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. "This partnership, with the Smart Systems for Health Agency and Hydro One Telecom, clearly demonstrates our commitment to contributing to the economic prosperity and development of northern Ontario."

"The scale of this project and the impact that it will have on residents of northern Ontario is extremely significant. 117 health care facility sites will be connected through over 1500 kilometers of network running east-west, and 844 kilometers running north-south", stated Paul Goulet, Vice President of Ontera, in speaking of the project implementation in both northeastern and northwestern Ontario. "In addition, the enhancements we implement for this project will also benefit Ontera's work across the north."

"Ontario Northland and Ontera continue to act as economic and development engines for the North", stated Ron Marleau, President of Ontario Northland's General Chairpersons Association, which represents the company's unionized workforce. "This project reinforces our role in connecting the north, as we work to provide the residents and businesses of northern Ontario with access to quality communication services."

The network enhancements will progressively provide the backbone for telemedicine, where patients in one community can access the services and knowledge of medical specialists from other communities, using teleconferencing and the secure network for the transfer of information. Medical records and imaging documents, i.e. x-rays, MRIs, can be shared over the secure network - reducing patient wait times and providing increased access to medical resources for residents of smaller and rural communities.

Established in 2000 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro One Inc., Hydro One Telecom leverages its parent company's telecommunications assets and delivers state-of-the-art, broadband telecommunications solutions to carriers, ISPs, and large public and private sector customers. Hydro One Telecom Inc. is a CRTC-registered, non-dominant, facilities-based carrier, providing broadband telecommunications services in Ontario with connections to Montréal and Buffalo, New York and Detroit, Michigan. Its fibre network spans over 4000 km.

Hydro One Inc. is a holding company that operates through its subsidiaries in electricity transmission and distribution and telecom businesses. One of its subsidiaries, Hydro One Networks Inc., operates one of the largest transmission and distribution systems in North America. Hydro One Inc. is wholly owned by the Ontario government.

Ontera, a fully integrated telecommunications company, offers a wide range of telecommunications and IP-based solutions including Internet, local, long distance, voice, data, and information technology services throughout northern Ontario. Ontera is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, an operational enterprise of the Province of Ontario. Ontario Northland, established in 1902, is a recognized expert in creating prosperity in the North by providing innovative telecommunication and transportation solutions.

Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) electronically connects Ontario health care professionals to patient information - contributing to more informed decisions by those treating people. SSHA is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care from which it receives 100 percent of its funding. Its products and services are free for publicly-funded health care organisations and professionals. More SSHA news is available in the VMW April 2006 article Northern Ontario hospitals connect to provincial network.


Leslie Versweyveld

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