Copyright 2002-, Watertown Daily Times

Story published April 17, 2002

Page 27 Edition: Section: Local


Byline: Martha Ellen
Times Staff Writer

Dateline: STAR LAKE

Improved emergency medicine and staff training came to Clifton-Fine Hospital Tuesday in the form of a camera and other specialty equipment.

"It's just completely awesome," hospital Administrator Walter S. Becker said. The hospital's new telemedicine distance-learning capability allows it to have a direct visual link to larger medical institutions, such as Albany Medical Center, and training hubs, such as Canton College of Technology.

"It's so difficult for us being a small hospital to let people out of here for conferences," said Richard L. Powers, director of radiology at the hospital.

Now the training can come to them.

Clifton-Fine's new equipment was part of a $122,565 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service for a computer-assisted health care professional education program at Canton Tech.

Many hospitals have distance- learning capabilities but the Adirondack Area Network that connects the school and Clifton-Fine Hospital with more than 50 members is technologically state-of-the- art, said Linda M. Moerschell, director of Canton Tech's Rural Health Training Center.

AAN was created to provide advanced telecommunication services to geographically remote areas in the Adirondacks.

Mr. Becker was in Ms. Moerschell's office for another reason when she received some information for the telecommunications grant she had begun researching.

"He said, "I want in,"' Ms. Moerschell remembered. "It was a stroke of genius."

Support for the project came from Assemblywoman Dierdre K. Scozzafava, R-Gouverneur, and state Sen. Raymond A. Meier, R- Western, Mr. Powers said.

Another part of the grant hooked up Elizabethtown Community Hospital, which already had the equipment but not the educational links, Ms. Moerschell said.

"It just kind of came together," she said. "Obviously, the benefit is that education is flowing."

The other advantage for Clifton- Fine is that it can use its portable equipment in the event of a major trauma to have a visual connection with specialists in more sophisticated settings. Mr. Becker said he expected the primary purpose for the equipment would be for education, and its use for emergency medicine more sporadic.