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Jennings Sunday: New fiber optic line benefits hospital, businesses

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NORTH VERNON — The highway to rapid and reliable information designed to assist medical care at Jennings St. Vincent Hospital also will connect Jennings County agencies and businesses to the world beyond the county line.

The construction and installation of nine miles of fiber optic cabling across the county to St. Vincent Jennings County Hospital establishes a connection hub in Jennings County and brings broadband connectivity to the hospital.

While the hospital already is connected to the eb and other medical channels through a system supported by telephone systems, the fiber optic system is wireless and self-supporting. It is also faster and more reliable than the current system, hospital CEO Carl Risk said.

The installation of the fiber optic lines provides St. Vincent Jennings with a critical backup to its existing fiber optic network, Risk added.

For example, the radiology department doesn’t always have someone present to analyze images for injuries, so sometimes it has to send them electronically, via the fiber optic network, to St. Vincent in Indianapolis to be analyzed. If the primary fiber optic network failed, the hospital would be “dead in the water,” he said.

“Having a redundant fiber-optic line is very important to us and will help us to continue providing excellent patient care. This will not only improve patient care at St. Vincent Jennings, it will also be a benefit to the community,” Risk said.

While cities and industrial areas already have miles of fiber optics laced through their communities, most rural areas do not, North Vernon Mayor Harold “Soup” Campbell said. The installation of fiber optics is expensive, he added.

The $325,000 hospital project is administered by the Indiana Rural Health Association, which provides programs to assist rural hospitals across Indiana.

About 15 percent, or nearly $49,000, of that cost had to be paid by the community, said Cindy Large, association spokeswoman. St. Vincent Jennings Hospital paid half, and the North Vernon Redevelopment Commission paid the other half.

“We didn’t hesitate to provide this partnership with the matching funds for this fiber optic program” said Chris Ertel, a member of the North Vernon Redevelopment Commission. “Having a quality health care facility like St. Vincent in our community is a huge asset for us to recruit business and industry. What ever we can do to help them is worth it.”

The St. Vincent Jennings Hospital became eligible to participate in the fiber optic program when the hospital was accepted as a member in the Indiana Telehealth Network. There are 24 Indiana hospitals participating in the network. The purpose is to use a broadband health network to improve health care, especially in rural areas, according to the network.

The Indiana Fiber Network and SEI Communications collaborated on the installation of the fiber optics.

Installation was completed in November, but the project wasn’t unveiled to the public until late January.

“Fiber and the bandwidth it provides will be critical for improved health care and enhanced economic development opportunities,” Indiana Rural Health Association Executive Director Don Kelso said in a news release.

The Indiana Fiber Network, which is partnering with the hospital in the Indiana Telehealth Network, plans to market the excess capacity, Indiana Fiber Network CEO Kelly Dyer said in a news release.

Because services provided through Indiana Fiber Network and SEI communications will enable businesses and public agencies to connect with the path of fiber optics, it is hoped new business will be attracted into the community, city and hospital officials said.

The hospital worked with Jennings County’s Economic Development Corporation to make sure the fiber route also went through the North Vernon Industrial Park, Risk said.

In today’s economy, it is important that businesses have fast and reliable communication ability with state, national and even international sources, Ertel said.

“This will give us enhanced telecommunications. It will give the community wireless, high speed, stronger methods of communication and will help build a better and bigger future,” Campbell said.

In addition to businesses along the direct route of the fiber optic broadband, it is believed the extended community also will benefit, city and hospital officials said.

“It’s like a highway,” Vernon Mayor Dan Wright said. “Just like a real highway, there are exits that lead off of a highway, growth always occurs around the exits of a highway. The fiber optics highway is like that too. The path of the fiber optics goes to the hospital. But there will be links along the way to other businesses. There will be growth around those links.”

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