“It’s been a huge year,” says nurse Amy Tolhurst of numerous developments at the Ici Santé health co-operative, which has locations in both Howick and Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague.
As of September 1, the co-op began operating out of its new space in the Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague presbytery, which is located right next to the Catholic church. The office has been equipped with a new centrifuge for treating blood samples as well as an ECG machine; these were purchased over the summer, after the co-op received a donation from both the both the Haut-Saint-Laurent and Beauharnois-Salaberry Caisse Desjardins.
The co-op also received a $53,000 grant from the federal government’s Community Services Recovery Fund to help it adapt to some of the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Tolhurst says the funds will be used to “establish the equipment and furniture required to accommodate more medical personnel.” Purchases have so far included furniture with surfaces that are more easily sanitized, wireless equipment including an otoscope and an ophthalmoscope for the doctor’s office, and stretchers for the triage room. “This is very exciting,” says Tolhurst, who is hopeful the upgrades will help the co-op to recruit new medical personnel.
To be considered for the grant, the co-op had to demonstrate how it was able to maintain services during the pandemic. Applicants were also asked to describe what they learned while going through the experience. “One of the things we recognized was the importance of our service offer of vaccination for the population,” says Tolhurst. With this in mind, the co-op applied for and recently received a needleless injector that will be used exclusively during this year’s flu vaccination campaign.
Tolhurst says the idea came from a medical student visiting from Cuba who completed some mentorship hours with the co-op. She suggested the injector which has been approved for general use by Health Canada and the Protocole d’immunisation du Québec for use with flu vaccines. “It is all done with compressed air,” says Tolhurst of the Med-Jet H4 injector, which she suggests resembles “a little paint gun.”
Instead of an invasive needle, the vaccine is administered as a microjet that passes through the skin. Patients may feel a slight pressure during the injection, but the procedure is considered to be less painful and less anxiety-inducing than a conventional vaccination. The staff at the co-op have been trained to use the device, and so far, at least ten vaccinations have been administered with the new technology.
“This also helps us move forward on a carbon-neutral footprint, because every item that we use for these injections can be recycled,” says Tolhurst, who is especially pleased with this development. “It is a first step,” she says, while insisting the co-op “can’t be afraid to be proactive if it makes sense.” It is a philosophy that Tolhurst hopes will allow the co-op to continue to expand its services, all while treating Valley patients in new and progressive ways.