Baffin networks with Ottawa
Health board signs contract with new medical service provider

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 06/98) - The Ottawa Health Services Network has been signed on to provide medical services to the Baffin, replacing a Montreal outfit.

Dennis Patterson, chair of the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board, said the new contract promises closer to home health care and a greater emphasis on prevention.

"These are world leaders, this network we're involved with," said Patterson.

"They have private-sector partners and have the federal government as partners."

A broad range of services have been agreed upon, including specialist services, primary care, family medicine, community health initiatives and a move towards telecommunication and information technology called Tele-Health.

The project is just what the Baffin needs, said Patterson, adding that it allows medical services to be provided over great distances through computers and television. A physician in Pond Inlet, for example, could send an X-ray to the South for analysis or a doctor in Iqaluit could see and talk with patients and nurses in remote locations by camera.

The new Ottawa Network contract is worth an estimated $50 million over five years, based on past Montreal costs.

"This wasn't driven by cost, the change, but we do anticipate reduced cost in southern travel and southern medical care," said Patterson.

A core of general practitioners and some specialists from Ottawa are already located at the Baffin Regional Hospital.

Lessons from the Keewatin

Last year, The Keewatin Regional Health Board also tried to find a new supplier of medical services, ending a 20-year relationship with the University of Manitoba's Northern Medical Unit.

But in early February the Keewatin Regional Health Board re-established their contract after the board's plan to recruit doctors directly failed.

What was left of the remaining system fell apart and territorial health department officials were called to Rankin Inlet to get services running again.

The chair of the board, Bette Palfrey, resigned and the chief executive officer, Jim Egan, was fired.

Darrell Bower, acting CEO for the board, said at the time that working toward a new contract with the NMU is an integral part of getting health services in the region up to snuff.

Dr. Bruce Martin, acting director of the NMU, said their commitment in the past has been to the Keewatin people," he said.

"Any misunderstanding with the KRHB will be put aside."

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