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The Moncton Times & Transcript, News, Tuesday, February 28, 2006, p. A3

By James Foster Times & Transcript Staff

Cancer patients across northern New Brunswick will receive care from specialists in Moncton without having to travel, thanks to a new service that provides a video and audio link in real time.
The new link between oncologists at the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional Hospital in Moncton and hospitals in Edmundston, Bathurst and Campbellton was showed off to reporters yesterday and performed flawlessly.

"It's a concrete example of the progress we are making in this direction," Aldeoda Losier, president and CEO of the Acadie-Bathurst Regional Health Authority, said via the video link.
The three northern RHAs and the Dumont were linked simultaneously and all could see and hear each other.

Dr. Pierre Whitlock, oncologist at the Dumont, noted the technology will also be used for continuing education among doctors as well as for videoconferencing between oncologists in Moncton and their patients - and those patients' doctors - in the three northern N.B. centres.
"Technology like this is essential for New Brunswick," he said, "and for many reasons."

There are not nearly enough oncologists in the province to meet the demand, Whitlock noted, so the new technology will allow an oncology patient's family physician to play a greater role in cancer treatment, all while being overseen by specialists in Moncton.

All initial consultations and that all-important early treatment will still take place in Moncton, but follow-up treatment for northern patients can be done in their own community, without the need to travel up to six hours - often in the dead of winter on icy roads - for a half-hour treatment that can just as easily be done via a tele-link.
"That is not a negligible factor," Whitlock said.

"In my eight years here, it has become clear that patients have huge distances to travel. This has a tremendous effect on their quality of life. An impact like that, it can be major."
About 40 per cent of Dumont cancer patients, about 500 people, come from the northern parts of the province, a number Whitlock described it as "very significant."

The number of cancer cases in New Brunswick is on the rise.

The technology is suited to chemotherapy patients being treated with medications, for example. It is not as adapted to radiation-therapy patients because those patients will still have to travel to where the radiation equipment is located.

But in cases such as breast cancer, for example, where a course of medication can last several months, the patient can now be treated and followed in many cases from afar.

The service comes thanks to a grant of $450,000 from Health Canada, through the Société Santé et Mieux-etre en Français du Nouveau-Brunswick, which promotes health and wellness in the province's major French-speaking centres.

Pierre LeBouthillier, president and CEO of the Beauséjour Regional Health Authority, lauded the initiative as "an innovative and unifying project which will benefit our partners and patients.

"Partnerships such as this are very beneficial for patients because when we unite our efforts and resources, we can offer them better access to oncology care and services in French."
Hospitals around the province are looking to telehealth as a step towards broadening their services outside hospital walls while making the best use of scarce health-care dollars.

For example, at The Moncton Hospital, authorities are setting the stage for a major investment in the technology which, like at the Dumont, will be used to bring health care closer to where people live while giving doctors the opportunity to take part in teleconferences geared towards their continuing training.

LeBouthillier noted the technology will also be used for community wellness education sessions, case conferences among doctors and meetings of entire multidisciplinary health teams.

© 2006 Times & Transcript - Moncton. All rights reserved

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