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Algoma Public Health (2000 - Present)


The Community Geomatics Centre (CGC) provides custom database creation and mapping services for all sections of Algoma Public Health (APH) since 2000.

Two such projects undertaken from the children’s side of APH are continuous mapping of their Integrated Services for Children Information System (ISCIS) database, as well as mapping childhood (ages 0-5) injuries by using Sault Area Hospital emergency room data for the Creating Safer Homes project. Mapping ISCIS data allows APH to conduct planning based on concentrations of newborns, as well as teenage mothers, and illustrating the negative effects of smoking while pregnant. The Creating Safer Homes project in the Healthy Babies Healthy Children section of APH were looking for potential areas where they can better help the community by focusing their resources in areas where there were many childhood injuries.

The CGC aids the environmental section of APH though mapping rat concentrations, animal bites, Sault Ste. Marie Retirement Facility evacuation plan, E. coli water testing results, presence of lead in drinking water study, Hepatitis B. selective mail outs, and most notably West Nile bird surveillance, mosquito trap results, larval dipping results, and hospital mapping for C. diff outbreak.

The CGC has assisted APH with database work within their HedgeHog application that used to store their inspection information. The CGC created secure database settings that are used for their public health inspection reports via their public website. The extraction of information used for APHs health inspector resource distribution is also conducted on a regular basis. The goal is to have all the health inspectors have an equal case load distribution, while considering such factors as driving distance, the frequency of the fixed premise inspection, and fixed premise proximity.

The CGC also assisted APH by mapping where the entrances were to school grounds to determine where the new No Smoking signs should be located, and to determine how many signs needed to be purchased for Sault Ste. Marie. The information gained from Sault Ste. Marie was used as a basis for estimating the quantity required in the District. This project was able to quantify the actual number of signs required, therefore eliminating the possibility of requesting more signs or requesting an excess amount of signs.

The mapping of reported rat concentrations was used to determine if there were pockets in Sault Ste. Marie that have higher numbers of rats than others, as well as if these areas are reoccurring year after year. Mapping was also done to inform the public that if you reside in these areas, take measures to reduce the rat populations and be aware of their presence in the neighbourhood while rat abatement was occurring. APH was also interested in determining if there were high incidences of cat, dog, rodent, or other bites within Sault Ste. Marie. The identified neighbourhoods would then be inspected to determine if there was a single animal responsible or multiple lone incidents.

The CGC created a conceptual map illustrating retirement home evacuation plans as a proactive measure in case of a city wide pandemic. In 2006, APH conducted a study to determine if there were elevated levels of E. coli in residents on well water, and to determine if it was warranted for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to extend the water main to these residents. The CGC is currently reviewing the PUC's water infrastructure with the PUC to determine if there are any lead water service leads within Sault Ste. Marie, and if so to replace them immediately.
APH also conducts many selective mail outs (such as for Hepatitis B.) throughout Sault Ste. Marie through the use of the CGC's selective mail out option within the Integrated Geomatics Service (IGS). This enables APH to print labels from their GIS terminal directly to a printer loaded with envelope stickers.

APH is concerned with the presence of West Nile Virus within Sault Ste. Marie and is taking measures to reduce the risk of contracting the virus through mapping dead bird locations and sending birds away for testing. They also map mosquito trap locations and results. Larval dipping sites and results are mapped along with the locations of every submersible transformer vault in Sault Ste. Marie. It was determined through a PUC tripping hazard project that submersible transfer vaults are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The combined cooperation between the PUC and APH has resulted in larviciding vaults and changing vault cover types to a form that is not conducive for mosquito breeding.
The CGC has also created a centralized data entry surveillance application for APH where staff across the District of Algoma can enter and view data through a web-portal. The tool allows restrictions to be placed on who can edit/view the data within the organization based on their role within the organization. Currently the web surveillance application is used to track information on West Nile virus bird, animal, human, mosquito, and larval dipping, as well as information pertaining to the APH Rabies surveillance program. The goal is to have a centralized surveillance tool for infectious diseases that all staff within the district can access.

One of the largest projects the CGC conducted with APH was the internal 3D mapping of Sault Area Hospitals. In January 2007, after the Sault Area Hospital (SAH) encountered a serious C. difficile outbreak, an investigation was initiated by Algoma Public Health to analyze the spread of C. difficile outbreak with the intention of using the findings to prevent and improve the management of future possible outbreaks. As a part of the investigation the Innovation Centre’s Community Geomatics Centre (CGC) assisted in mapping the outbreak by capturing a 3D digital GIS layout of the General Hospital and a portion of the Plummer Hospital and also developing a C. difficile database tracking application. The information generated from the application was used to determine patient tracking and exposure patterns. During an infection outbreak, additional management of staff, patients and medical equipment/assets are required to control the outbreak. Antibiotic-resistant strains of disease are challenging to eradicate, and the cost to prevent spreading increases astronomically when staff are faced with the added task of continually disinfecting entire areas not knowing where the targeted pathogen is actually located. This initial project lead to a more broad-based approach towards geospatial hospital mapping, enabling the tracking of bed and equipment management, patient management and employee absenteeism. The solution provided by the Innovation Centre’s CGC to address new mechanisms and approaches have extended the reach of typical methodologies to hospital management and tracking by being able to view the data graphically for spatial analysis thus embracing a more dynamic e-health environment.

The CGC is currently working with Algoma Public Health (APH) to develop a GIS Septic Toolbar. The toolbar will allow APH clerical staff to capture the septic system location geographically using known latitude and longitude coordinates with detailed information associated with the site, such as date of installation, date of inspection, type of septic system, number of runs of pipe, etc. In addition to capturing this data, APH staff will also be able to maintain this data through a maintenance page by searching criteria. This now allows APH staff to capture, search and maintain data not only digitally within a database but also with a geographic component with little knowledge of GIS software. It is anticipated that through this new tool there will be improvements in investigations and a better understanding of geographic restrictions that may occur at a site. Through research it appears as though this is the most comprehensive GIS septic tool that will be in use and future enhancements to the tool will incorporate hyperlinking all inspection documents geographically to the septic system, creating a comprehensive geographic septic index system.

Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre