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Tele-radiology announced for northern Manitoba

WINNIPEG - Earlier this month, Rey Pagtakhan, federal Minister of Western Economic Diversification, announced $99,999 in government funding for the new Norway House and Churchill Teleradiology demonstration project.

The balance of the $237,280 project will come from Manitoba Telehealth, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre.

The Norway House and Churchill Teleradiology project will be used to demonstrate the technology to other communities in the hopes of providing these types of services in northern Manitoba and across Western Canada.

WD funding for this project will be directed towards the purchasing of equipment and software to be located at the Norway House Hospital, the Churchill Health Care Centre, St. Boniface General Hospital and the Health Sciences Centre.

In June 1998, Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and the Province of Manitoba each provided $1.25 million in funding towards the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre for a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), which is the central storage device and the cornerstone of Manitoba's filmless radiology network.

The filmless radiology network will enhance health services in Norway House and Churchill, while being assessed for future application in other remote and northern communities.

"The remoteness of northern communities presents a unique challenge in our ability to provide local health services," said Minister Pagtakhan. "Through the introduction of this innovative technology, we are enhancing health services in these communities, an important step in enabling them to prosper and grow. The Government of Canada is pleased to be building strong rural communities and investing in people - Canada's most important economic asset."

As part of the Manitoba Telehealth Network, Norway House and Churchill will become the first two communities to be connected via broadband technology to Winnipeg. Equipment is set up at the Norway House Hospital and the Churchill Health Care Centre and is operated by locally trained staff. The corresponding equipment is located in Winnipeg.

Patients enter the hospital or healthcare centre in their community for testing and the images sent to Winnipeg by existing high-speed digital transmission lines. The digitized pictures are received by a secure server and can be accessed through viewing stations set up at St. Boniface General Hospital and Health Sciences Centre.

"Most patients would agree that waiting for test results can be the most anxious part of accessing medical services," said Dr. Blake McClarty, professor and department chair, Radiology, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. "Whether it is a routine ultrasound or an emergency situation, filmless radiology will provide patients with the prompt answers they need to make sound decisions regarding their health and well-being."

Under the present system, patient x-rays are shipped by air to the Health Sciences Centre for interpretation. Adverse weather conditions, urgent and emergent cases and difficult-to-diagnose conditions, can all affect the system's efficiency.

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is a department of the Government of Canada that works in partnership with the provinces, industry associations and communities to stimulate and encourage diversification of the western economy, as well as to represent the interests of the West in Ottawa.
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