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A Seat at the Table: First gathering of BC’s New Community Health Centre Partnership Table moves us one step closer to a meaningful community of practice

A new provincial Community Health Centre (CHC) Partnership Table had its first gathering this November. Bringing together an unusually broad  cross-section of community and government stakeholders, the partnership table is a recognition of the power of community collaboration. “This important milestone is the result of dedicated work by the BC Association of Community Health Centres (BCACHC), our Coalition and many other community partners,” says Edith MacHattie, one of BCHC’s representatives at the table. 

Representatives from the BCACHCs, the BC Health Coalition, the BC Rural Health Network, and the Community Alliance of Racialied Ethnocultural Services (CARES) for Equitable Health, as well as patients of CHCs and providers who work at CHCs, determined  to work together to grow the CHC model in BC. According to Marcy Cohen, another BCHC representative at the table, “We have demonstrated our capacity to work productively together in bringing this table together, specifically by ensuring the table was representative of the diversity in our province.”

Also present at the table are representatives from the First Nations Health Authority, the five Health Authorities in BC, the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Mnistry of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Ministry of Poverty Reduction and Social Innovation. The table is co-chaired by the MOH and BCACHC and the secretariat sits with BCACHC.  This table is an opportunity to demonstrate the power that comes from involving community voices in the planning and implementation of primary health care strategies.

It has been three years since the BC NDP made an election commitment to establish this partnership table. Since 2017, the province has fulfilled its commitment to build 3 of its promised 20 new CHCs. While the province has made a significantly greater investments in new Urgent and Primary Care Centres (UPCC), CHC advocates have highlighted that  UPCCs are not the same as CHCs in that they do not provide on-going relational care, are not community governed and do not focus on the social determinants of health. To learn more about the benefits of the CHC model, check out this blog post by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. .

The hope shared among many community representatives at the partnership table is that through this collaboration we will succeed in demonstrating the value of the CHC model for the many populations in the province, who are not well-served by our current primary care system, including people with mental and substance use challenges, newcomer and refugee communities, older adults with chronic health challenges, rural communities, indigenous communities, at risk youth, etc. By working together to build on best practices  and funding models that will make CHCs achievable, we can show the power of bringing diverse community voices together.