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Canadian health co-operatives engage with legislators

18 May 2015

Co-operatives play an important role in Canada’s social service, wellness and health sector. On 25 March representatives of health co-operatives organizations delivered presentations to members of the All Party Caucus on Co-operatives of the Canadian federal government.

Speaking at the meeting, Jean-Pierre Girard of LPS Productions talked about his global research, which looks at the scale of the health co-operative sector. The study, carried out with support from the International health Co-operative Organization shows that over 81m people are using the facilities of co-operatives and mutuals in the health sector. According to the survey, 4,961 co-operatives and mutual are engaged in health activity while 14,806 operate in the social care sector.

Michaël Béland of Co-ops and Mutuals Canada gave legislators an overview of health co-operatives in Quebec. The sector provides health care, home care and paramedic services. Co-operatives active in home care serve around 100,000 people in the province and employ another 7,800. Quebec is also home to 52 health care co-operatives that offer services to 178,000 clients, with 60,000 of them being members. These co-ops employ 130 doctors and 50 nurses.

Vanessa Hammond, chair of the Health Care Co-op Federation of Canada presented the overview from all across Canada. She described the range of work of the Federation's members: home care, employment support for people facing employment barriers, community outreach, health centres and mobile health services.  She explained how co-ops provided culturally and linguistically appropriate services in over 25 languages. The community outreach health centres provide a wide range of physical and mental health services and education. This approach helps individuals and communities to prevent illnesses, achieve and maintain optimal wellness, so reducing suffering and costs. She emphasised that each co-op was unique, responding to the needs, opportunities and capacity of the founding members and their communities.

Ms Hammond described how further support at federal and provincial levels could enable wellness, social service and health co-operatives to do even more. 

"Health, wellness and social services co-ops are more focused and more effective than any other form of organisation in creating solutions to the needs of our communities," she said during the presentation.

Photo: Vanessa Hammond, Dr Djaouida Sellah, MP for St Bruno in Quebec, and Hugh Nelson, Executive Director of the YsOwl Maclure Co-op in Ottawa.