By Vanessa Hammond, President, Victoria Health Co-op 

“Why should I join the Victoria Health Co-op?”

This is a most welcome question, and we have good answers. Everyone who joined in the first two years, 2008 and 2009, was motivated by the opportunity to support wellness for ourselves and others in our community. These very important aspects of our work still form two of our three main work areas; Services For Our Member-Owners and Community Outreach. 

Our Member-Owners have the opportunity to attend our Monthly Members Wellness Clinics, which are normally held on the fourth Sunday of each month. Four to six of the complementary and alternative practitioners in our extensive roster donate their time, and our members make a donation which is deposited in the Health Access Fund and for which you can receive a charitable donation receipt. Special thanks to our practitioners and our generous members. The Health Access Fund then enables low-income members to receive a series of treatments they would not otherwise be able to afford. Our Members Wellness Clinics and the Health Access Fund are valuable benefits of membership.

Our Community Outreach program has provided wellness sessions such as Choices for a Health Lifestyle and Back to Basics. Currently we are working with several community groups to provide the Hans Kai program. In Hans Kai, groups of 10 to 15 people attend a Hans Health School of eight sessions of two hours each, learning basics of wellness. The group continues to meet monthly with the support of a member of a community organization and access to trained Hans Kai organisers. The focus of each meeting includes social connections, a healthy snack, a physical activity and monitoring our basic health indicators.

After the Victoria Health Co-op had been providing Services to Our Members and Community Outreach for two years we learned that the James Bay Community Project had decided it could no longer operate its clinics because of changes in funding, We were deeply concerned that the 5,000 patients would lose their primary medical service. After a careful feasibility study we decided that we, the Co-op, could make it work. Despite the fact the some of the figures we had received were incorrect and that we have had to make extraordinary efforts to meet costs, the Member-Owners are extremely proud that we have enabled the facility, now named the Co-op Health Centre, to continue to serve around 5,000 patients. There is actually very little overlap between the 380 members and the 5,000 patients, as our doctors had to give priority to the existing patients. Although many members would really like to access the medical services, we know that we are already providing an extraordinary service to our community. We are making great efforts to access additional medical personnel, and you can help. If you feel that this resource is important to our community, please sign the letter to the Premier and MLAs in the Co-op Health Centre, 547 Michigan, or call or email us: vichealthcoop@gmail.com; 250-415-9272. 

And what of the future?

What will we offer our Member-Owners? We will continue to offer our Monthly Members Wellness Clinics. Please give us your email address so that we can send the notice of each Clinic to you. We are planning to update the Information Board at the Co-op Health Centre and will include these notices.  You can support the Health Access Fund, and make use of it if you need a little help to receive the complementary and alternative treatments you need.

What will be our Community Outreach? We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rainbow Health Co-op and the Victoria Senior Lesbian Society and are working on partnerships with several other community organizations including the Canadian Housing Federation, mainly for the implementation of Hans Kai programs. Member-Owners are most welcome to participate in these programs. 

And what about the future of the Co-op Health Centre? 

We are in the early stages of seeking the funding to bring back a Nurse Practitioner or add a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse. Our aim with all of these is to work with partners, serve the community and welcome more patients at our Co-op Health Centre.

The big picture

As Chair of the Health Care Co-op Federation of Canada, I am seeing increased interest by government and potential funders in working with co-ops to enhance health, wellness and social services across and beyond Canada to learn from each other. The years of visits and education in Ottawa and across Canada are starting to show some encouraging results. None of this would be possible without the years of dedication of the member-owners of the Victoria Health Co-op.