A sound in­vest­ment

The Compass - - OPINION -

It's been said there are about 127,000 vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers in Canada; a stag­ger­ing num­ber, in­deed.

We won't even haz­ard a guess at how much it would cost an­nu­ally to re­place these ded­i­cated and self­less men and women with full-time staff. Lets just say it would be well into the bil­lions of dol­lars.

Ed­i­to­rial staff at com­mu­nity news­pa­pers in this prov­ince of­ten in­ter­act with these vol­un­teers, whether it's at their an­nual ball and awards night, at the scene of a ma­jor emer­gency, or chat­ting while wait­ing in line at the lo­cal con­ve­nience store.

They usu­ally have a few things in com­mon: they love their com­mu­ni­ties, en­joy the com­rade­ship and take a gen­uine in­ter­est in the safety and well-be­ing of not only their fam­ily and friends, but all cit­i­zens.

Many of us have at­tended emer­gen­cies where these vol­un­teers, of­ten in the dead of win­ter, are risk­ing their own health and safety for the ben­e­fit of oth­ers. It's some­thing to see. They also ded­i­cate many hours to train­ing and fund-rais­ing.

Most vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers are tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als who excel at im­pro­vi­sa­tion, fab­ri­ca­tion and "mak­ing due with less." These are much-needed skills in many vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments, where limited re­sources and ag­ing equip­ment of­ten re­quire a cre­ative ap­proach to keep­ing it all in work­ing or­der and ready to re­spond.

And in many cases, the lo­cal fire bri­gade is of­ten a cru­cial piece of the foun­da­tion that keeps a com­mu­nity strong and spir­ited and united.

What that said, we felt a nod of ap­proval to the pro­vin­cial govern­ment was in or­der. Af­ter many years of be­ing dis­missed and ig­nored by our elected of­fi­cials, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment is rec­og­niz­ing the ben­e­fit of in­vest­ing pub­lic funds into vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments.

Mil­lions have been spent in re­cent years on the pur­chase of pumper trucks, res­cue units and aerial lad­ders, and in most cases the com­mu­ni­ties are only asked to pay 10 per cent of the pur­chase price. This year alone, the prov­ince is spend­ing $2.5 mil­lion for 11 new ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing a much-need quint aerial lad­der for the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

These in­vest­ments do more than just al­low for the pur­chase of a shiny new truck and im­prove emer­gency ser­vices. They also boost the morale of the vol­un­teers who of­ten form the back­bone of these com­mu­ni­ties, many of which are strug­gling to re­main vi­able in the face of de­clin­ing and ag­ing pop­u­la­tions.

Sure, it's smart pol­i­tics, and we're con­fi­dent in say­ing the politi­cians who get to turn over the keys ex­pect to be re­warded at the bal­lot box when elec­tion time rolls around. That's re­al­ity. But more im­por­tantly, these vol­un­teers are re­ceiv­ing a much-de­served show of sup­port. That's some­thing we can all be pleased about. Dear edi­tor,

Ger­many, also known as the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic of Ger­many, is lo­cated in Cen­tral Europe. Ger­many is sur­rounded by the North Sea, Den­mark and the Baltic Sea (North); Poland and Czech Re­pub­lic (East); Aus­tria and Switzer­land (South); and France, Lux­em­bourg, Bel­gium and the Nether­lands (West).

Dur­ing the Otto von Bis­marck regime, Ger­many be­came the first nation on earth to im­ple­ment some form of uni­ver­sal pub­lic health plan for cer­tain Ger­man health con­sumers — low in­come res­i­dents and civil ser­vents — in 1883.

Like Bel­gium, Fin­land, Great Bri­tain, Ire­land and Swe­den, Ger­many pro­vides a na­tional uni­ver­sal health care sys­tem, in­clud­ing phar­ma­care, to most of its 82 mil­lion health con­sumers. How­ever, Ger­many is unique among Euro­pean na­tions in hav­ing a com­plex sys­tem of pub­lic and pri­vate health in­surance cov­er­age for ev­ery­one who lives within its bor­ders. Cer­tain Ger­mans can opt into the pri­vate sys­tem, pro­vided they earn 69,000 Eu­ros ($87,675.17 CAD) or more for three con­sec­u­tive years, or they can re­main in the pub­lic medi­care sys­tem.

The Ger­man pop­u­la­tion falls within three cat­e­gories: pub­lic in­surance based on in­come (74 per cent); vol­un­tar­ily cov­ered by pub­lic in­surance ( 14 per cent); and those res­i­dents cov­ered un­der pri­vate in­surance (10 per cent).

The Ger­man pub­lic health care sys­tem, in­clud­ing phar­ma­care, is fi­nanced mainly by em­ployee and em­ployer “pay­roll tax” de­duc­tion Premi­ums, un­em­ploy­ment in­surance and re­tired pen­sion plan de­duc­tions, and gen­eral tax rev­enue. Cer­tain Ger­man health con­sumers are “ex­empted” from any cost-shar­ing ar­range­ments — un­em­ployed spouses, chil­dren un­der 18 years, and peo­ple with chronic mental and/ or phys­i­cal health con­di­tions/dis­abil­i­ties.

For those Ger­mans who are cov­ered by the pub­lic plan, most have to pay any­where from five Eu­ros ($6.35 CAD) to 10 Eu­ros ($ 12.71 CAD) for each med­i­ca­tion they re­ceived. Ger­man health con­sumers, cov­ered un­der the pub­lic in­surance sys­tem, can ob­tain cov­er­age to about 2,300 pre­scrip­tion drugs, and like Swe­den, it is manda­tory for con­sumers to pur­chase the less-costlier “generic” drugs that are avail­able.

It is the Ger­man fed­eral health min­istry, and the 315 non-profit cen­tres — Geset­zliche Krankenkasser — who ad­min­is­ter the Ger­man pub­lic drug plan.

Like other Euro­pean coun­tries, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, Ger­many has shown that a na­tional govern­ment can pro­vide a na­tional phar­ma­care for its res­i­dents. Here in Canada, Cana­di­ans have to pur­sue as­sis­tance from any one of Canada’s 14 fed­eral or pro­vin­cial/ter­ri­to­rial drug plans. Ed­ward Saw­don

St. John’s

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