By Vanessa Hammond

We constantly hear about the high cost of health care. Maybe it is time to take a step back and think about what we mean by “health” and “health care.”

Health co-operatives across Canada, including the Victoria Health Co-op, recognize the importance of working to enhance the wellness of our members and wider community. 

In 2008 we established the Victoria Health Co-op with a very firm focus on wellness. For our member-owners this included access to our monthly Members’ Wellness Clinics in which a number of Complementary and Alternative practitioners (reflexology, reiki, energy work, etc) provide treatments and our members make a donation to the Health Access Fund. We were also committed to providing wellness services to those in our community who lacked the opportunity for such activities. Back to Basics, Choices for a Health Lifestyle were the first outreach programs. Partnerships with other community groups have enabled us to share wellness programs such as “Hans Kai” or “Learning Groups” very successfully. We hope you will become a member of the Victoria Health Co-op so that you can fully participate in our services for members and our community outreach.

Only when illness or accidents compromise our health do we need medical services. But this, too, is important work. When we learned that the clinic at the James Bay Project was to be closed in 2010 due to changes in government funding, we undertook the enormous effort of establishing the Co-op Health Centre and keeping it running through numerous challenges.  We constantly put great effort into covering the costs and attracting physicians. We are currently working hard to find a way of bringing nurses into the Co-op Health Centre. There are over 25,000 residents in Victoria without access to primary medical care. We work hard to ensure that we can continue to serve our 5,000 patients. We have three specific challenges:

Many in our community still do not realize that the Clinic would have closed down if the Victoria Health Co-op had not taken over the space and the work.

Many also do not realize that this is a totally new arrangement and that, although we cannot require membership (would contravene the Canada Health Act) we really wish that everyone who is a patient of the Co-op Health Centre would join the Victoria Health Co-op.

Many assume that being a patient at the Co-op Health Centre means they are automatically a member of the Co-op. We hope all will complete the Membership Application ($50 lifetime membership) and make full use of our Services for Members and participate in our Community Outreach.

On a slightly different, but very relevant topic, we and others across Canada are appalled by the ever-rising costs of medical care and the lack of focus on helping Canadians to achieve and maintain wellness. We have a question and we hope you can help us to provide answers!

Here is our question.

The World Health Organization identifies social connections, clean water, nutritious food, safe housing, security of access to all of these as the basics for health, and finally, access to health and medical services. What do you feel is the single most effective action governments (federal, provincial, municipal) across Canada could take to support the wellness of Canadians?

Suggestions so far include:

- enact a living wage for all

- provide a "wellness allowance" to cover preventative actions such as nutritious food, exercise club memberships, running shoes, bike helmets

- facilitate access to marijuana

- legislate that all sugar-heavy products can be displayed only on higher shelves in grocery stores, away from the sight-line of children 

Do you agree with one of these, or can you add another action idea to enhance the wellness of Canadians?

If you have any other comments or questions about the Victoria Health Co-op (member services, community outreach or the Co-op Health Centre) please contact me at 250.415.9272, or by dropping your question, answer or comment in the green suggestion box on the info table in the corner of the waiting area at our Co-op Health Centre, 547 Michigan.

And a final note: because several of our MDs are taking summer holidays, we can offer drop-in visits for our patients only on Mondays and Wednesdays during July and August. Of course the majority of the visits are through regular appointments. I should add that unfortunately, our doctor’s patient’s lists are full and we cannot accept new patients for the Co-op Health Centre at this time but continue to work hard to attract additional practitioners. We are happy to welcome new members for the Co-op and provide access to our Members Wellness Clinics and all other benefits of membership.