The All Party Caucus on Co-operatives discusses health and wellness

Mar 30, 2015

The All Party Caucus on Co-operatives held its seventh meeting on March 25. The topic of the day was wellness, health and social services.

Mauril Bélanger, who began by introducing the guest presenters and the attending MP’s, chaired the meeting. Persenting to the caucus were Vanessa Hammond, Chair, Health Care Co-op Federation of Canada; Jean-Pierre Girard, co-op researcher and consultant; and Michaël Béland, on behalf of la Fédération des coopératives de services à domicile et de santé du Québec (FCSDSQ)

Mr. Girard presented his international research on health care co-ops. The study observed the different ways the co-op model is used in developing these services around the world. Health co-ops are found on every continent and where they are implemented, it has been noted that they help to foster wellness promotion by empowering people to take charge of their own health.

Mr. Girard also cited evidence that costs go down and service levels go up when the co‑op model is used for both wellness and social services.

Vanessa Hammond explained the different types of activities that health co-ops undertake in Canada. From home care to health centers to employment support, co-ops respond to their members and are therefore better connected to the needs of communities. “Individuals and communities are best able to determine their unique needs and focus on meeting those needs,” said Ms. Hammond, “A common factor in many is the desire to achieve optimal wellness and independence rather than see a hospital visit as automatically the best solution.”

Michaël Béland provided a profile of the Quebec federation and health care co-op landscape. He explained that Quebec has co-op health care, home care and paramedic services. Home Care currently provides services to approximately 100,000 people and employs 7,800 people. There are 52 health care co-ops in Quebec who serve 178,000 clients of which 60,000 are members. These co-ops have 130 doctors and 50 nurses.

Paramedics are structured as worker co-ops. There are more then 1,576 members representing 31% of all paramedics in Quebec. These worker co-ops employ an additional 1,750 non-members. In 2013 they transported more then 193,000 people-representing 28% of all hospital transfers in the province.

The subsequent discussion began with questions about how Ottawa can affect co-op health and wellness policy in Canada when health care is a well-guarded provincial responsibility.

Mr. Girard referred to his report as a resource to inform the health care sectors and provincial governments about what is working well elsewhere, citing Italy as a successful example. Engaging with health care educational institutions so that the model is better understood was another key opportunity discussed. Vanessa Hammond mentioned previous co-op development funding that had worked and could be restored federally as well as incentivizing membership in health care co-ops in the tax code.

All of the presenters emphasized the need to share best practices, not only between provinces, but also internationally.

Beyond the monetary savings, Mr. Girard pointed out that health care co-ops help to create an environment of empowerment and community involvement with local people.  This in turn creates important community and social links.

The co-op caucus is scheduled to meet twice more before Parliament rises for the summer.