La Maison Bleue

Health and happiness, one family at a time

By Jason Santerre

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Whoever “they” are must have studied the Maison Bleue model of health care. “We welcome families and help them at their most vulnerable,” says Sarah Pisanu, Maison Bleue’s director of operations. The “we” she mentions can include a family doctor, midwife, social worker, specialized educator and more.

Since said vulnerability is due to a pregnancy, a healthy and safe pregnancy is the mandate at Masion Bleue's three locales: Côtes-des-Neiges, Parc-Extension, and St-Michel. "Vulnerability is key and refers to not only expecting a child but the mother's financial situation," says Ms. Pisanu. "It also includes everything from immigration status and cultural adaptation to mental health and social exclusion. Many mothers here are refugees and not in the public system."

The goal is not to add up all of their troubles but to examine the situation from all angles and see if Maison Bleue can actually help the family. And it is the whole family that gets attention here. Indeed, it does take a village, and Maison Bleue is itself a small village of health care providers.

That village began with the vision of Dr. Vania Jimenez and her daughter Amélie Sigouin. The women opened the first Maison Bleue locale in 2007 in Côtes-des-Neiges. The goal was to give pregnant women living in tough situations a foothold in the medicaland social-care system. La Maison Bleue was meant to provide these mothers and their families with the necessary tools to thrive.

“We want to keep it small, simple, and communal,” says Ms. Pisanu. “We never want to take on more than 85 to 90 new pregnancies per year, per site. The management team is autonomous from the public system but the care providers are actually employees of the public system.”

One such employee is Dr. Fanny Hersson, a caregiver who has been witness to many success stories at Maison Bleue in Côte-des-Neiges. “I remember examining one pregnant woman and noticed she had a heart murmur,” recalls Dr. Hersson. “It turns out she had had rheumatic fever as a child growing up in Haiti and as a result had a damaged heart valve.”

As the story goes, the woman eventually did give birth to a boy. When she came back to Maison Bleue with her son in tow, on-site educators picked up on the fact that the infant was showing signs of developmental problems. The fact that the Masion Bleue team worked so closely with the mother and her son enabled them to pick up on these problems a little faster than had she been left to the mercy of the public system. “Eventually, she was put in touch with social services and was able to have her heart surgery,” recalls Dr. Hersson. “The little boy was enrolled in a special school, and Mom eventually went into health sciences herself,” she says. “Now she’s studying to become a health care provider.”

For more good news, testimonials, and information about Maison Bleue’s myriad services, please visit


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