With a population of fewer than 1,000 people, Tignish, P.E.I. punches above its weight when it comes to medical services — it has a health centre that would be the envy of much larger communities.

The Tignish Health Centre, which has been running as a co-op since 1974, is now full to capacity as it has continued to grow. 

"It provides so much for the community that we never really had before," said nutritionist Emily McRae, who recently opened a practice in the centre. She's an addition to the doctors, nurses, dentist, pharmacy and other medical services available there.

McRae, who grew up in Tignish, said the centre is a pillar of her small community and was her number one choice for an office location in the area.  

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The Tignish Health Centre has been a community-supported co-op since the 1970s. (CBC)

"Other health professionals can work with me by referring their clients to me … it's easy just to say 'I can refer you to a nutritionist who is actually right down the hallway.'"

Community support key

The centre started thanks to tremendous support from the community, and a small loan. Since then, the building has undergone three massive renovations, to add space for more health professionals.

In recent years, the centre has received some funding from the province, but is largely supported by fundraising initiatives.

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Wendy Arsenault manages the Tignish Health Centre, and says the centre survives with the support of the community. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"It doesn't matter what we're having, they are supporting it. We walk in they say 'How can we help you? … What do you need?'" said centre manager Wendy Arsenault. 

Health co-ops like the one in Tignish are rare these days, Arsenault said, but she has faith that her community will continue working to keep the medical centre viable, since it gives residents access to services so close to home.

"I could talk about this place forever, I'm just so proud of the place and the people who support it … it's a lot of work, but it makes it easier because there's so much help."

With a full spectrum of health professionals in the building, not one office is left to rent, she said. 

The co-op is interested in further expansion in the future, to make room for even more health services for the people of Tignish.