The Ikajuruti Inungnik Ungasiktumi (IIU) Telehealth Network has one over-all goal — better health care in Canada’s newest territory — and plenty of challenges. Satellite connections are troublesome in the north.
Tim Marks, chief executive of Virtual Healthcare Solutions, the Iqaluit-based contractor
that helped design, install and run the network, says newer Ku-band satellites orbit too low and too far south for dishes in the Arctic to see them. So only the older C-band satellites are available, and even then dishes must point “”almost at the ground”” to aim at them. “”We’re chipping off part of our signal, so we don’t have a huge signal strength,”” he says.
That means longer transmission delays, and because of the way audio and video packets are prioritized the audio often gets out of sync with the video — “”like you’re watching a bad kung fu movie,”” says Carol Wrigglesworth, service co-ordinator at Ardicom Digital Communications Inc. Getting technicians and equipment into remote communities was a constant headache. Besides snow and fog delays, planes travelling to small northern settlements are small, Marks says, and some of the equipment brought in was big enough to take up virtually all a plane’s cargo space. “”Food and medical supplies take precedence over general cargo,”” Marks explains, “”so you get bumped a lot.””
Local people had to be trained to operate the equipment, says Angela Butt-Constantine, acting manager of the project, because most others don’t stay long in remote communities. Training had to be tailored to the culture, provided in four languages and suited to trainees’ educational level.