The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation is part of an experiment in health care that will see robotics used to put doctors and patients face to face even though they are separated by hundreds of kilometres.

The pilot project is being launched in the remote northeastern Saskatchewan community of Pelican Narrows.  It is aimed at providing timely care, avoiding unnecessary travel and closing the gap on access to specialists.

The new technology was unveiled during a demonstration at the Regina General Hospital. The pilot project is led by Dr. Ivar Mendez, who did a diagnosis on a patient using a robot that provided real time information on the patient’s blood pressure, blood oxygen level, as well as his eye and skin condition.

Dr. Mendez says Saskatchewan could prove to be a real breakthrough for the technology:

“I truly believe the province of Saskatchewan will be the leader in the world in these clinical protocols.”

Dr. Veronica McKinney is the director of Northern Medical Services.  She says PBCN is a partner in the pilot project and is very excited about the technology. She is convinced it will save time, money and lives:

“Yes, I absolutely do. I think there have been way too many lives lost from lack of access, so we want to make a change that way.”

Health Minister Dustin Duncan does not know where the pilot project will take us, but he does say the province is doing what it can to improve the quality and access of health care for all residents of Saskatchewan — even those in tiny, remote communities:

“So anything we can do to invest in new technology, new innovations that will make for a better patient experience, certainly we are interested in those types of investments.”

In addition to providing timely care, the remote medical technology will reduce medical transportation costs and prevent unnecessary trips to larger health care centres.

The province is funding the $250,000 cost for the new equipment.