The McGuinty government is improving health care in northern Ontario by investing $5.7 million in telemedicine technology to deliver health services to more northern communities, Minister of Health and Long Term Care.
"Telemedicine is proof of the power of technology in delivering quality health care over vast distances," said Smitherman. "This investment in NORTH Network will enable thousands of northern Ontarians to receive care in their own communities instead of having to travel away from their homes and families."
The NORTH Network provides telemedicine services in northern and central Ontario and supports over 100 sites, including 65 hospitals, 11 nursing stations and three regional cancer centres. NORTH Network delivers a wide range of health services in areas such as psychiatry, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, burn management, paediatrics, and geriatrics.
Telemedicine uses video-conferencing telecommunications and digital technology, including electronic stethoscopes, to virtually connect patients to health professionals. There have been over 5,300 medical consultations through NORTH Network so far in 2004, compared to a total of 5,100 in 2003.
"It's gratifying to know that telemedicine is acknowledged as part of the creative solution to the transformation of health care in Ontario," says Dr. Ed Brown, Executive Director, NORTH Network. "NORTH Network is pleased to continue to work with our many partners towards the integration of this technology into mainstream health care delivery for Ontarians."
"Our government is changing health care by bringing care to all Ontarians as close to home as possible," said Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines. "NORTH Network is one way we are achieving this commitment and improving the health and quality of life of northern Ontarians."
Telemedicine reduces wait times for health services. Patients wait less than two weeks for telemedicine appointments through NORTH Network, compared to waiting five weeks for out-of-town consultations with specialists.
"Telemedicine is attracting health professionals to practice in rural and underserviced areas because it transports the clinical and educational expertise of teaching hospitals to even the most remote communities," said Smitherman.
"This announcement is important news for people living in northern Ontario who experience barriers accessing health care, said Chief Charles Fox, Head of Chiefs of Ontario. "It's one more step towards creating a health care system that responds to community needs, and is available to all."