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Hemmingford Health Coop and Otto Venti: community connections in an underserved area

Keith Scott

The Hemmingford Health Coop serves its members from what was once the main chapel of the Hemmingford United Church. A recent fundraiser for the Coop, however, took place at another Hemmingford church — the Catholic one, St-Romain.
The Valentine-themed classical music concert was the brainchild of Jean-Pierre Paiement, vice-president of the Coop’s board of directors, and Alain Lefebvre, a local French horn player who performs with the eight-piece wind ensemble Otto Venti.


Otto Venti performs at the St Romain church in Hemmingford to raise money for the Coop de Solidarité Santé Hemmingford et Région PHOTO Keith Scott


“The group itself proposed doing it around Valentine’s Day,” Paiement said. “They had a piece they wanted to perform by Prokofiev, one that is dedicated to Romeo and Juliet.”
The ensemble’s music — arrangements of Mozart, Chopin, and Prokofiev — graced St-Romain’s lofty interior last Sunday, the high ceilings making for fine acoustics for this style of music. McGill music instructor Mark Simons conducted the semi-professional group, and set the scene for the theme of love, which all the pieces touched on somehow. The concert also featured a performance by a local pianist, Vanessa Krohn.

La Coop de Solidarité-Santé Hemmingford et Région

Fraternal love, if not the romantic variety, forms the core of the Hemmingford Health Coop’s community-driven mission to provide access to health care for the community and a variety of services and resources. Both a doctor and a nurse are available for check-ups and minor treatments, but the Coop also houses a physiotherapist, nutritionist, osteopath, family counsellor, massotherapist, and foot care specialist.
“The [official] name of the coop is Coop de Solidarité-Santé Hemmingford et Région,” Paiement said. “The notion of solidarity is important. If people are in a difficult place, we can help them. We plan to create a foundation to help people who don’t have the means to pay an annual membership but who need our services. This is in the process of being executed.”
The Coop serves not just Hemmingford Township residents, but also those in surrounding towns like Sherrington, Lacolle, and Havelock, Paiement said. Membership costs $115 per year.

But why pay in the first place?

In Quebec and Canada, health care is supposed to be free. So why pay to join a clinic?
“There was no doctor in Hemmingford for about 20 years,” Paiement said. “There was no nurse.”
With no clinic in the immediate vicinity, Mayor Paul Viau teamed up with the Centre Local de Développement des Jardins-de-Napierville to found the Coop in 2016. “[The Coop] was started as a response to a need for health care,” Paiement said, noting that the nearest CLSCs, in Napierville and St-Rémi, are both a decent drive from town.
“Some people find it expensive,” Paiement said, “but if you come a few times a year to the Coop right down the road, instead of waiting six hours at the clinic in St-Jean or Napierville, you get your money’s worth pretty quickly.”
Paiement said there is no specific project that they are raising money for, but that the overall budget is pretty tight. “If we want to add things to the building or to our services, we have to wait for someone to donate it, or get it cheap, or do fundraising events like this one.”
The Coop is financed mainly by its members, he said, but also receives some money from surrounding municipalities and sponsorships.

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