Healthy wariness, taxing idea
In this era of information and misinformation overload, it is too easy to become stressed out about the many products, habits and critters that might make us ill.
However, while there is no need to panic every time a new health alert is issued, obviously, we cannot blissfully carry on with our lives without being aware of potential hazards.
Which brings us to Lyme disease, a serious tick-borne infectious disease that is endemic or emerging in many parts of Canada.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit recently warned that blacklegged ticks, which can spread Lyme disease to humans, are being found in a growing number of locations across the five eastern counties.
In Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and Prescott-Russell, at least 20 per cent of blacklegged ticks are carrying the Lyme bacteria, which is why the disease is now considered to be well established in this region.
There are no guarantees in life, but taking precautions when venturing outside greatly reduce the chance of being targeted by a bad tick.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, symptoms can last from months to years and can cause serious health problems.
That is why we are hearing so many horror stories about people who have gone months, even years, without receiving the proper care.
Across the country, the number of confirmed human cases has been growing steadily, the Public Health Agency of Canada notes. But the number of patients is likely under-reported, the agency says.
Under the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease, Ottawa will work with public health, health care, patient groups, and other interested parties, placing strong emphasis on prevention and establishing a research network to address evidence gaps. The work will be undertaken over the next five years, ending March 31, 2022. For many, action is long overdue. The framework was drawn up following a 2016 conference which underscored the many concerns voiced by patients, their families, caregivers and health care professionals.
Here is a sample of the woes outlined at the meeting.
Canada's medical system has failed Lyme disease patients.
There is a great deal of physical, mental and financial suffering as the result of Lyme dis- ease.
Misdiagnosis is common. Lyme disease symptoms overlap with those of other complex chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and depression.
Misdiagnosed Lyme disease and/or improper or inadequate treatment have ruined lives, families and careers.
Many patients have been frustrated by the need to see multiple specialists rather than receiving a holistic approach to treatment of this chronic disease.
Many patients feel disrespected and not listened to by the medical community.
Many patients have had to seek treatment out of Canada at great personal expense.
Early detection is essential -- the burden of the disease increases if not treated early and adequately.
Canadians and the medical community need to be more aware of Lyme disease prevention and symptoms.
There is a patchwork of poor, misleading and incorrect information and conflicting messages.
Physicians are not being educated about Lyme disease; they lack needed information.
And, finally, many doctors don't know if they are in an endemic/high-risk area.
There are obviously many issues to be addressed if the risks posed by this malady are to be reduced and patients are to receive the treatment they need and deserve.
Health officials often use the term “emerging” to describe the problem. It has only been since 2009 that physicians have been required to report Lyme disease cases to the national surveillance authority.
In 2015, there were more than 700 cases of Lyme disease reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada. In 2009, there were 128 cases.
Yet the scope of the disease is nebulous because there could be thousands of people who do not know they have been infected.
Plus, there has been a lack of consensus on how to interpret blood tests and how to deal with the symptoms.
Everyone appreciates that efforts to prevent and control Lyme disease are being made. But another consensus is that more can and should be done to deal with this hazard.
What were they thinking?
Another tax, regardless of its motivation, is never welcome. So, even those who hate Kathleen Wynne would agree that the Premier did the right thing last week when she rejected a suggestion that the sales tax be increased by one per cent.
The hike was recommended by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which proposed the extra revenues from the hike in the harmonized sales tax be used to improve infrastructure.
In a report that culminated two years of research, analysis, outreach and discussions, the AMO stressed that municipal governments’ fiscal circumstances are “not a rosy picture.”
AMO President Lynn Dillon warns: “In fact, we have an annual gap of $4.9 billion to continue delivering today’s services to our communities and to address critical infrastructure needs more proactively.”
She points out, “Ontarians count on municipal governments every day to provide quality, round-the-clock services. Developing municipal budgets and setting property tax rates are among the toughest decisions that municipal elected officials must make each year. It can often mean cutting the services people want. While the challenge looks different from one community to the next, it is a challenge faced by all.”
Ontarians already pay the highest property taxes in the country, in part, because they also deliver the broadest range of services in the country, the AMO says. That is unlikely to change.
“A new one per cent sales tax dedicated to municipal infrastructure was received favourably by a majority of Ontarians in a recent AMO/Nanos poll. Other municipal governments around the world use a local sales tax. We cannot afford to ignore the need to achieve fiscal sustainability,” the association stresses.
“The foundation of municipal funding hasn’t been substantially revisited since Confederation,” the AMO president observes. After 150 years, a change may be overdue. But, with a provincial election a year away, the Liberal government is not about to add to the financial burden of grumpy voters.
The AMO’s call for more infrastructure money is contained in a report bearing the tagline “Imagining a prosperous future for our communities.”
The group’s goals are noble, but we can’t imagine paying more taxes.