By Vanessa Hammond

Is history repeating itself? Is your health and medical care at risk? Please read on about challenges, hope and helping.

In 2010 the medical services at 547 Michigan (in the James Bay Community Project building) were at risk because of the inability to bring together a new government approach to paying doctors and the wishes of the doctors. This would have been a serious loss for patients from James Bay and beyond.  

The doctors contacted the Victoria Health Co-op and we were able to bring in additional doctors, reduce overhead and are now providing care for over 7,300 patients, many from James Bay. If you are one of our patients, you know that the care is excellent. You also know that we have lost several doctors to illness, moving and retirement. We advertise every month for new docs but there is a serious shortage of family physicians in Victoria. Over 70,000 residents in the region have no primary medical care provider.

By cutting costs, some generous donations from members of the Health Co-op we have kept the doors open. In fact we have been able to absorb many of the patients of doctors who have left. And we do have some great news. A specialist, an Internist, has joined our team. Dr Robin Lowry will receive referrals from our current doctors. They will refer to him some of their existing adult patients who have complex conditions, usually several conditions, and who agree to this referral. He has extensive experience in this type of practice in several provinces and northern British Columbia. Please welcome him. We are hoping that an additional doctor will join us at the end of June. Please also welcome Destiny who has joined our Medical Office Assistant team:  Nadine continues to balance the Health Centre and University, Jane moves to part-time, while Neeraj and Val continue their outstanding work.

But now we face a problem again, but not quite the same as in 2010. For some time the revenue at the Health Centre has been lower than our costs due to the shortage of doctors. The gap has been met by loans, by generous donations from members of the co-op and from the wider community. We have a new challenge. All of our doctors either have additional work obligations outside the Health Centre, or very important family responsibilities. The result is that their billing to government, and therefore the revenue to the Health Centre has decreased further. We face an even great gap between revenue and expenses. The Co-op has no further resource to meet this shortfall.

There are several solutions. But we need your help.

More doctors and a Nurse Practitioner (NP). Do you know a doctor who might be interested in working at the Co-op Health Centre? Ideally full time, but we also appreciate part-time doctors who can add to the total number of patient visits. If you can think of someone, please contact us. Could you help us to find a NP?

Housing. The cost of housing is too high for new graduates. Can you offer housing to a newly graduated family physician or NP making it possible for her, or him, to move to Victoria.

Gifts. The Creating Community Wellness Society exists to enable us to support our practitioners in providing outstanding care. When you make a gift to the CCWS you are contributing to keeping the doors of the Health Centre open. And you receive a charitable donation receipt. To donate, please contact Chris Mather, Treasurer 250 516 5831 mather01@telus.net 1287 Boulderpath Rd., Victoria V9C 3X5.

What difference does it make? Names are changed but maybe you may recognize these patients who have given permission for their stories to be told. 

Susan first received care at 547 Michigan. About 20 years ago she started to experience acute discomfort and exhaustion. With expert diagnosis and treatment, now in her mid 70s, she enjoys excellent health and enjoys family life and community action.

Melissa became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby. She was told that her doctor at the Health Centre could not accept her baby. With financial stability, we would have more possibility of bringing in either a doctor or a Nurse Practitioner who would help with this and similar “family unification” issues. This is important as our home context has such an influence on our health.

Can you help us to continue to care for Susan and Melissa, and maybe before too long, to bring others into our practice? Please call one of us, or email. We will be very happy to answer questions, and so grateful if you will help us to continue the work of the Health Centre.

We also hope you will attend one of our monthly updates. The next will be in the Board Room of the James Bay Project (our lovely landlord) 547 Michigan St, 5.30pm Tuesday April 11. With refreshments!

Donations can be mailed to CCW, c/o Chris Mather 1287 Boulderpath Rd., Victoria  V9C 3X5 or through the Donate Now button on . It works well. I just tested it again! Or through Go Fund Me under 7,300 patients need their Health Centre,

Vanessa 250.415.9272 vichealthcoop@gmail.com

Chris 250 516 5831  mather01@telus.net