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Schumer Backs Creation Of State Of The Art North Country Fiber-Optic Network To Better Connect Rapidly Expanding Ft. Drum And Area Hospitals

New High-Speed Broadband Network Would Greatly Enhance Communication between Military and Civilian Health Care Facilities

Senator Calls on Feds to Approve Nearly $1 Million for High-Tech Project

Schumer: Telemedicine is the Wave of the Future and Can Improve Quality of North Country Health Care

In an effort to greatly enhance the quality and efficiency of North Country healthcare, today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer backed a new effort led by Fort Drum and area hospitals to connect nearly two dozen area health facilities to a highspeed fiber optic network. Schumer today wrote the head of the Federal Communications Commission urging it to approve a nearly $1 million grant for the vital project.

"There is no question that putting Medical records online is the wave of the future," Schumer said. "This project will put the North Country right on the forefront of this medical revolution. This will bring next generation technology to North Country hospitals and will hopefully be a model for hospitals around the state and nation. This is a bold project and I applaud Fort Drum and our area hospitals for taking the lead on this. I will fight tooth and nail for this funding and will work with the community to deliver whatever they need to make this project a reality."

The new broadband connection would enhance communication among the civilian and military health care facilities and improve the management and organization of medical records of thousands of North Country residents. The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FBRHPO) would take advantage an existing 450mile fiberoptic cable to carry the network.

The FDRHPO is applying for a $1 million Federal Communications Commission grant from a program established to aid rural health care facilities and improve deliver of services. The FCC grant will allow for the development of the network at very low cost to the hospitals.

Currently, the North Country population does not have adequate access to healthcare, hampered by the rural nature of the region as well as a high percentage of lowincome residents. There is also a marked shortage of physicians in this region, according to the Federal Health Professional Shortage Database. In fact, in 2005, more than 2100 patient cases were transferred to facilities in Syracuse and Utica from the North Country, both of which are over sixty miles away.

Schumer said that North Country hospitals have wanted to implement telemedicine, but could not afford the significant upfront cost to build the necessary telecommunications network. With the addition of thousands of new Fort Drum personnel, that need is significantly increased.

To carry out this important project, Fort Drum United States Army Medical Department Activity is partnering with five participating hospitals: Samaritan Medical Center of Watertown, Carthage Area Hospital, E.J. Noble Hospital of Gouverneur, Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, and River Hospital of Alexandria Bay. The increased communications abilities presented by this network would reduce hospital stays and the cost of medical care, increase physician recruitment and retention, improve patient care, facilitate the transmission of emergency medical records among physicians and health care facilities, and most importantly, stabilize the local health care system in the North Country.

Formed in 2005, the FDRHPO is a nonprofit corporation working to plan and evaluate quality health care services to meet the needs of the military by enhancing the response to the military community while building a strong health care system for the North Country region of New York State. With no hospital of its own, Fort Drum relies on these regional health care connections as key service providers for its enlisted men and women and their families.

In his letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, Schumer wrote, "Healthcare need and healthcare access are major issues for this region, and I applaud the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and its partners for their foresight and hope the application for funding meets with your approval."