Celebrating not only the 50th anniversary of the Co-operative Health Centre (CHC) but the birth of Canadian health care itself, crowds gathered on Thursday in front of the CHC building on 8th Street.
Former employees, partners and neighbours took part in the celebrations.
“The Prince Albert Co-operative Health Centre is here because of the combined effort of community members,” said Coun. Martin Ring, speaking on behalf of the City of Prince Albert.
“Visionaries had a dream of what health care could and should be. Volunteer citizens had a willingness to help. Doctors and nurses who wanted health care to be available to all citizens, not only the rich. Now throw into the mix some forward-thinking political leaders, and you get a collaboration that not only worked 50 years ago, but still works today. This is indeed a milestone that needs to be celebrated.”
MLA Victoria Jurgens spoke on behalf of the Saskatchewan government.
“The Prince Albert Community Clinic serves a population of more than 10,000 people. That just happens to be about 13 per cent of the population of the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region,” she said.
“This clinic has a long and continuing history of aligning its programs and services to meet the needs of our local population. For many years it has been offering health services that go well beyond checkups and physicals. When clients come here they can access special programming areas that include nutrition, HIV, dental screening and counseling for victims of abuse. Now, the clinic continues to evolve in order to keep up with the health needs of the people of this community.”
Opening its doors in 1962, the CHC was among the first in Saskatchewan, and by extension Canada, to offer free medical care to citizens.
The late Dr. Orville K. Hjertaas, recognized as one of the fathers of Canadian health care, practised at the clinic for decades, and received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1993 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997.
His commitment to the practice was well documented among speakers at Thursday’s celebrations, and his wife Millie was among those invited to attend.
The legacy left behind by Dr. Hjertaas continues today thanks to the hard work of the CHC staff.
“I do want to specifically thank the physicians, staff, management and volunteers of the Prince Albert Co-operative Health Centre for continuing to provide health services and support programs that are based on a 50-year-old belief that compassion, respect and dignity is deserved by all of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” Ring said.
“It is a true accomplishment and a tribute to all those who have served so well. Every day you go to work and you make a positive difference in the lives of so many. I honour and respect the important work that you do, and on behalf of the council of the City of Prince Albert, I sincerely thank you for your contributions towards a better, safer, healthier Prince Albert.”