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DRS “Families First” campaign pays for Telemedicine at PCFHC.

by Lisa Brazeau

The largest single corporate gift to date to the Petawawa Centennial Family Health Centre will pay for equipment to connect patients and health practitioners locally to clinical services in larger urban centres.  DRS Technologies Canada Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. defence technology company DRS Technologies, Inc., completed its two week “Families First” fund raising campaign, raising $43,145 to support the families of soldiers at CFB Petawawa. 

The campaign began Thursday, July 19 and coincided with the designation of 2007 by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Rick Hillier as the “Year of the Family” in the Canadian Forces (CF).   The money has been earmarked by the PCFHC Board of Directors to fund Telemedicine capabilities using both on-line video consultations and diagnostic instruments, which will help local families access medical specialists not available at the base or in the Town of Petawawa.  'Seed' money of $20,000 was contributed by the corporation, and employee contributions from DRS Technologies Canada Inc.'s Kanata and Carleton Place offices added another $23,145.

"Your contributions towards ... bringing telemedicine to the health centre are tremendous and will have a huge impact in supporting our families," said CFB Petawawa Commander LCol Bill Moore Monday morning during an official cheque presentation ceremony at the PCFHC.  Commending the efforts of the PCFHC board, he acknowledged the new centre and the services it will provide to both military and civilian families "is a phenomenal achievement."

As one of the busiest bases in Canada, Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet said serving personnel don't need the additional pressure of worrying that their family back home does not have adequate access to primary health care.  "Certainly what has happened today goes a long way to addressing the issues that we were left with four years ago when we lost our primary care physicians," he said. "This is tremendous, it's going to be a legacy that will last for many, many years here in the community. Generations will be the benefactors of the work that has been done by Treena (Lemay) and her team."

The donation will cover the cost of purchasing Telemedicine equipment and the infrastructure required for the service, including fibre optic cables and telephone lines in the new PCFHC facility slated to begin construction on Civic Centre Road. The health centre is currently located on CFB Petawawa's north townsite in converted Private Military Quarters (PMQ) at 12 Reichwald Crescent.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care released $1.925-million in capital funding last week for construction of 9,276 square feet of the new building; the town has committed to funding an additional 2,854 square feet of space for a Laboratory, X-Ray department, programming and teaching area and optional space for allied health services.
The opening of the new facility is tentatively scheduled for early in the new year.

The addition of Telemedicine - a videoconferencing link to large medical centres including the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario or the Ottawa Hospital - will greatly assist the centre’s clinicians in diagnoses and treatment, noted  PCFHC Board of Directors President Treena Lemay.  "We're absolutely thrilled that the people of DRS Technologies took this project on and that we have the support of such a wonderful group of people who are extremely interested also in supporting the military community," she said. "The ability to be diagnosed in Petawawa by a specialist located in Ottawa or Toronto is extraordinary and will increase our quality of life in the Ottawa Valley."

DRS Technologies, Inc. conducts business in three Canadian locations with two facilities in the Ottawa Valley, and the third in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The company is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, and is a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide.

As a defence contractor, DRS Technologies Canada Inc. President Dave Stapley said the company has a natural affinity for military personnel and their families, "but more importantly, we have friends and neighbours and relatives who are in the service, or who are associated with the service," he said. "This is a wonderful, wonderful thing that you're doing for the military community and the community as a whole."

DRS employees at all levels, he said, embraced the fund raising initiative; "everybody got on board and did it," he said. "We had a tremendous response which, for me personally and my colleagues on the campaign team, was extremely refreshing."

The PCFHC was one of the first of 150 Family Health Teams announced in April of 2005 by the ministry to provide primary health care in areas with few or no physician services. In 2004, two of Petawawa’s three physicians left the municipality, and as a result, the base and town formed the non-profit Petawawa Centennial Family Health Centre corporation, run by an all-volunteer board.  The PCFHC opened in 2005, and now has a patient roster of 4,600 people, all of whom were without a family doctor.

With the addition of a third full-time doctor this August, the centre has now extended its reach beyond the borders of Petawawa to Laurentian Valley and Laurentian Hills.
"This is a tremendous example of what can happen when people are determined," said Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski.

"Their success is an example of the determination that they've shown, and something for others to learn from. There was simply no taking no for an answer”, he said.

"This community knew it had some serious challenges in health care and they took the bull by the horns."

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