Health

The North End Community Health Centre turns 44

The Centre celebrates over four decades of working with the community on Gottingen Street

Margaret Casey (right) welcomes a patient to the North End Community Health Centre
Margaret Casey (right) welcomes a patient to the North End Community Health Centre   Sarah Poko

The North End Community Health Centre (NECHC) celebrated its 44th year on Gottingen Street on Thursday. Loyal patients and unsuspecting newcomers alike were treated to snacks, warm beverages, and a slice of birthday cake.

NECHC was founded in 1971 when Gottingen Street residents didn’t have suitable access to health care. It happened shortly after some members of the Africville community moved to Gottingen. They then decided to form a health centre because it became a growing need in the community.

Executive Director Rodney Wilson has worked with the NECHC for 18 years. He said he hopes this birthday celebration encourages people to come to the NECHC.

“People said that they’ve driven by us for decades,” said Wilson. “But they didn’t really know what we did.”

Rick Nurse is a volunteer and a board chair at the NECHC. He said he started volunteering at the centre two years ago because he admired the drive of the staff.

“I learned very quickly that the North End Centre was a unique and essential service that was meeting a need that the rest of the formal health care system just wasn’t meeting,” said Nurse.

Patients say they are not surprised NECHC has been operating for so long. They say they are proud of the centre’s accomplishments throughout the years.

Jackie Borden has been coming to the NECHC for 11 years. She says it’s the staff’s friendly demeanor and swift service that keeps her coming back to the centre.

“I think it’s a good place to come to. If you need to see a doctor, you get in quicker,” said Borden. “I like it here, they’re really helpful.”

British Columbia native Chief Grizzly Mama moved to Halifax in May. She said she always felt welcomed at the NECHC from the first day she came to the centre six months ago.

“They treat us like we’re part of their family,” she said. “I like how they keep an open mind and try to do their best to serve you.”

Amy Moonshadow has been coming the NECHC for over 30 years. She said she looks forward to the next 50 years of being their patient.

“I love how their doors are always open,” Moonshadow said. “It’s always been a welcoming place.”

Despite the praise, patients admitted they want to see new programs that allow the NECHC to work more closely with the community members.

“I want a self-esteem or work ethics workshop,” said Borden. “Things we can do to better our community and ourselves.”

Grizzly Mama said, “As a residential school survivor, I want a meeting I can go to and share my struggles and try to find ways to deal with my triggers from the past.”

Wilson said the NECHC does plan to introduce more programs and community outreach initiatives.

“People still don’t understand the role of the centre,” he said. “With support and funding from United Way, we’re introducing more community hub programs and literacy programs. We just introduced a seniors’ drop-in and we’re also hoping to develop a quilting group for people in the community who want to attain more skills, meet people and have a sense of belonging.”

Margaret Casey has been working with the NECHC for 40 years. She’s currently a retired general practitioner and a board chair. She says her most fulfilling moment has been working with the community.

“My birthday wish for the centre is that it continues to evolve in a way that is most beneficial to the community,” said Casey. “Also that it will be a leader in the provision of primary health care to communities throughout the HRM.”