Council approves funding for health co-op
Thursday, Nov 24, 2016 11:43 am
The Airdrie and Area Health Benefits Co-operative (AAHBC) got a shot in the arm Nov. 21 when Airdrie City council approved a $100,000 grant for 2016 for the organization.
“Council is being asked to endorse the recommendation of the Council Budget Committee with respect to the $100,000 grant to the co-operative in 2016,” said Lucy Wiwcharuk, director of Corporate Services with the City of Airdrie.
“Administration is recommending that an agreement be drawn up between the City and the health co-operative.”
The AAHBC will provide healthcare to seniors as well as primary and proactive healthcare and emergent/urgent care.
Mental health, secondary health such as physiotherapy and acupuncture, as well as dentistry and eyecare will all be offered through the health co-op and membership is free. The AAHBC plans to build a health park where residents can access healthcare in a one-stop-shop.
The AAHBC has completed the incorporation process under the Co-operatives Act of Alberta, according to Myles Hamilton, a founding member of the AAHBC, and appointed an interim executive committee with Stan Grad as chair, Don Bell as vice chair, Kim Titus as secretary and Hamilton as treasurer.
“They will be in place for 180 days at which time we will have a new board appointed, which will be appointed by all the (co-op) members,” Hamilton said.
“Our vision and goal is to get 60,000 people signed up into the health co-operative and that’s under the premise there is about 100,000 people both in the city and in the surrounding area.”
According to Hamilton, a candidate for the position of chief executive officer (CEO) for the co-operative has been identified and should be announced shortly.
Legal opinions have been sought and completed which indicate the co-op is inline with the Canada Health Act and the Alberta Health Act, Hamilton said.
Councillor Candice Kolson asked Hamilton and Dr. Julian Kyne, a member of the AAHBC, to review how the $100,000 grant would be spent.
“There was significant community input into the planning of 24/7 urgent care and emergent care proposals,” Kyne said.
“As you well know, this was going on for the last five or six years. (Some of) these funds were spent on proposals sent to Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS).”
The provincial government announced Sept. 14 Airdrie Urgent Care Centre would open 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning in 2017.
Hamilton said the funds would also be used to establish a community engagement steering committee to help elicit feedback from the community regarding the co-op.
“We need to get our information out into the community so we need to move forward with that,” he said. “We’ve also got to start work on the health park and begin solicitation to get feedback from the community.
“One of our biggest challenges is going to be to go and enroll the entire community. Our process to do that, to communicate to get people to sign up, is fairly substantial. The cost to be in the co-operative will be zero but we still need to get people to opt into the co-operative.”
Councillor Ron Chapman asked how or if the AAHBC and the Airdrie Health Foundation (AHF) will work together and if some of the money raised by the AHF will go to the AAHBC.
“The AHF was set up as a foundation to raise funds for AHS projects,” Kyne said.
“What’s become clear is that a local solution for our local healthcare and our local promotion is what’s required. That’s where the AAHBC came about. There is a proposal to look at AHF disengaging from AHS and coming over to be a fundraiser for the co-op.”
Chapman asked about the ability of the AAHBC to issue investment shares. Kyne said because the co-op is not a non-profit or charity, it can raise money through investment.
Companies can decide to invest in certain projects and get shares in return.
“The City of Airdrie could be considered to be an investor in the co-op,” he said.
“The City is very much involved in the start up of this operation…and they could decide to invest in some projects.”
The AAHBC has asked for an additional $300,000, a funding request which is included in the 2017 budget deliberations currently underway.
Council unanimously approved a motion to approve a grant of $100,000 for AAHBC for 2016 to be taken out of the City’s operating surplus, which is estimated at $1.8 million.
Council also unanimously approved directing staff to draft an agreement between the City and AAHBC for the use of those funds.
“I think this is a necessary investment. We have all the right people at the table,” Mayor Peter Brown said. “Health is our number one priority.”