By Vanessa Hammond

Are you concerned about medical services in our neighbourhood? Please join us at the JB New Horizons 10am Friday March 24th for a discussion of how we can enhance the services at the Co-op Health Centre in the JB Community Project, 547 Michigan St where we serve 5,000 patients. As the Board of the Victoria Health Co-op, we put enormous effort, time and resources into this but we need your voice. Please come, bring your ideas, your voice, and a friend or neighbour.

Some background: In 2008 a handful of people formed the Victoria Health Co-op to serve our members and provide some outreach to vulnerable groups in our community. This has grown. Since 2008, the members of the Victoria Health Co-op, now (around 500, have been providing wonderful treatments for members through the Monthly Members’ Wellness Clinics. We have also been delivering excellent wellness programs, such as Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle and Hans Kai, hosted by Our Place, BC Housing locations, First+Met Seniors and other vulnerable groups in our community, and Saanich public library. We want to do more of this. These services to our members and our community are why we formed the Co-op, and it is important that we continue to work in both of these areas.

But then, in 2010, came a challenge. We heard that the JB Community Project’s clinic would be closed because of changes in funding. We were asked to see if we could keep it alive on a not-for-profit basis. The data provided by the doctors indicated that we could do this. How does it work? Or rather, how should it work? The doctors bill the Medical Services Plan, and they then pay a percentage of their revenue to cover rent, medical office staff (our wonderful MOAs), electronic medical records, supplies, cleaning, etc. As a Co-op, we needed only to cover our costs, not to generate a profit. This looked possible. We took the plunge, determined to provide medical services to the 5,000 patients.

We faced, and still face, a number of problems: the revenue from the doctors did not materialize as expected; there is a serious shortage of doctors in Victoria and many want to work only a few hours per week, which brings in very little revenue; because of the Canada Health Act we cannot require doctors or patients to join the Co-op, nor does joining guarantee access to MSP services. 

But there is good news too. Thanks to the outstanding generosity of the 500 members of the Co-op and the endless volunteer work of the Board and a handful of members, we are serving 5,000 patients. The Co-op covers the cost of advertising for family physicians in all the medical journals. We are working with two doctors who we hope will join us in the next few months. We are preparing an application for a Nurse Practitioner, although this is complicated, and are working on the time-consuming process for several other proposals. We are starting a fund-raising campaign.   

“We” are a small group of volunteers, all seniors, and some others of the 500 other members of the Victoria Health Co-op. We need your help. We need you to join the Victoria Health Co-op to strengthen our voice and resources. If you receive medical services at the Co-op Health Centre we certainly need you to join the Co-op. This involves making a one-page application, paying a $50 lifetime membership fee plus, if you can, $20 per year. We need your voice.

Please meet with us at JB New Horizons 10am Friday March 24th, to hear about our progress, ask your questions, state your concerns and give us your ideas. Please come and bring a friend or neighbour. 

If you have questions at any time, please contact Vanessa Hammond, Chair of the Victoria Health Co-op at , vichealthcoop@gmail.com or 250.415.9272.