Healthy wari­ness, tax­ing idea

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney [email protected]­gar­

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.

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