By Vanessa Hammond

The Victoria Health Co-op has been part of the James Bay community for eight years.

The Vic Health Co-op is run by its member-owners, around 380 of us. The Co-op has three main activities: Member-only Services; Community Outreach: and the Co-op Health Centre.

1. Our Member-only Services include the Monthly Members’ Clinics and the Health Access Fund. The Monthly Members’ Clinics are held at the Co-op Health Centre, 547 Michigan, usually on the last Sunday of the month. A group of outstanding practitioners provide a range of Complementary and Alternative Modality (CAM) therapies not covered by MSP, on a donation basis. Although the group varies slightly each month services are regularly provided by:

The donations at the Monthly Wellness Clinics are accumulated in the Health Access Fund. If a member needs, but cannot quite afford, a series of treatments, the HAF provides the necessary “top-up” so that the practitioners are properly reimbursed.

And, of course, membership in the Co-op gives every member the right to attend Board meetings, an equal vote in major decision making, a voice in making policies.

Lifetime membership is $50. We request that members also make an annual donation of $20 towards administrative costs. We are particularly happy when members provide loans or gifts so that we can enhance our services.

2. Our Community Outreach has included Back To Basics at Central Middle School; Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle at Our Place, First+Met United Church, Saanich Public Library, and several BC Housing locations. Currently we are the BC lead for the outstanding Hans Kai program, partnering with several community groups including the Rainbow Co-op and the Senior Lesbian Care Society, to enhance group-led activities to help members to achieve and maintain optimal wellness. The ability to lead or support these programs is seen as a significant benefit of membership by many in the Vic Health Co-op.

3. The Co-op Health Centre. Six years ago when the existing health clinic closed due to a funding crisis we worked with the James Bay Community Project to explore the feasibility of renting the old clinic space from the Project and running a Co-op Health Centre. We welcomed the challenge to bring this exciting new model of health care to James Bay. 

We rented the space and established the Co-op Health Centre as the third activity of the Victoria Health Co-op. We were determined to serve the James Bay population. There have inevitably been challenges along the way and lessons that have been learnt in implementing a new health care model. Some of our current challenges are a shortage of medical staff as several doctors have retired or moved away. We are proud to have been able to absorb many of their patients, especially those in greatest need of medical services. However along with the whole Greater Victoria community we are in need of additional doctors. We are advertising widely for MDs and are working to bring a Nurse Practitioner back.

We still hold the dream of offering truly integrative care.

We are working closely with our landlords the James Bay Community Project, our CAM practitioners, the doctors and Medical Office Assistants at the Co-op Health Centre, to provide the community with the best of care – a truly amazing team.

How can you help? You can join the Victoria Health Co-op and become a member. Becoming a member does NOT give you access to a doctor – that would be against the Canada Health Act, but it DOES give you access to the Monthly Members Wellness Clinics. Becoming a member adds to the collective voice of the Co-op and can help advocate for better health care in your community and gives you many opportunities to volunteer alongside a group of people dedicated to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness for ourselves and our community. To become a member email or phone, or pick up an application form at the Co-op Health Centre.

But even before becoming a member, we really hope you will sign our letter asking the Ministry of Health to shift the focus to wellness and make it easier for all health co-ops in BC to access the services of a Nurse Practitioner. To get a copy, just call or email, or sign the copy at the Co-op Health Centre.

To find out more pick up an application form at the Co-op Health Centre at 547 Michigan St.  You can phone 250 415 9272 or email vichealthcoop@gmail.com or check us out on Facebook.