Virtual health hub for Sask. residents finds home on Whitecap Dakota First Nation

A new health centre based in Whitecap Dakota First Nation will offer virtual care to remote and rural communities in Saskatchewan, and eventually across Canada, officials said Thursday. The $27-million virtual health hub will include teams of physicians, nurses and other health-care workers who can remotely assess patients in real-time in their home communities. The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies will help run the hub and train students to staff it.

“The future is coming very quickly. We need not only to deploy the technology, we need to train individuals who will be using this technology,” said Dr. Ivar Mendez, director of the health hub, during a Thursday morning sod-turning ceremony at the construction site in Whitecap Dakota First Nation, about 30 kilometres south of Saskatoon. “In the end we will be able to provide more timely and effective health care, but also more cost-efficient health care. This is what the hub will be. It will be a model for the whole country.” 

Reduced travel and more immediate access to health care will improve health outcomes in under-served areas, said Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear. “Right now, in northern communities, when a First Nations woman has to get an ultrasound, they have to fly into Saskatoon and it takes three days,” Bear said. “And they can’t even bring their partner. Their partner can’t enjoy that moment with them.” Instead, a health-care worker at the hub could remotely operate a robot in a nursing station in a remote community to perform that ultrasound.

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