A Laurentian University research institute beat out dozens of other applicants to receive a three-year, $3.4-million grant for a project examining how health care is provided in Northern Ontario.
The Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research (CRaNHR, which proponents pronounced “cray-ner”) was one of 11 programs to receive funding from the Health System Research Fund Program, from a group of almost 200 applicants.
Researchers from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine will also be involved in the project.
Wayne Warry, CRaNHR director, said the research will focus on Aboriginal, Francophone, rural and remote communities in Northern Ontario, and how to improve both access and quality of care for those populations.
One of the areas it will be looking at is the effectiveness of telemedicine in treating people living in remote communities, and seeing how the service can be improved.
If more people use telemedicine, it will save the government money, because they won't have to pay as much in Northern Health Travel Grants, Warry said.
The study will also be looking at ways health professionals can be better trained to serve the needs of northerners.
“For example, the accountability mandate for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is to make sure doctors are trained in the North and stay in the North,” said Warry, speaking at a May 22 press conference where the funding was announced.
“They are trying to attract Francophone and Aboriginal physicians.
“We're going to be looking at their intake process, to make sure they're getting the kinds of applicants to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine that will get those Francophone and Aboriginal doctors when they graduate, staying in the North.”
He said it's “fantastic” that CRaNHR has received this grant.
“It provides stability, and it provides us with a platform where we can look for synergies with other kinds of research, and hopefully build on our success and grow the centre over time,” Warry said.
Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said he's not surprised CRaNHR received the grant, as it does great work, but said it's exciting nonetheless.
“It speaks to the level of research excellence that you find here,” he said.
Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci said the government hopes the work done by CRaNHR will not only refine how health care is delivered in Northern Ontario, but be applied in the rest of the province — something that's important in times of fiscal restraint.
“We have to make sure we do things better, smarter,” he said.
“We have to make sure we do things that are going to provide the necessary results we all want. How best to find out what the right direction is than to do the applied research that provides evidence-based material that this is the direction we should be going in?”