Lyme Disease Demands Urgent Action From Health Minister: Clark

by Michael Jiggins, Executive Assistant to Steve Clark, MPP, Leeds-Grenville; written March 6, 2014

MPP Calls for More Effective Diagnostic Testing for Disease

(QUEEN’S PARK) – Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark has called on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to improve the way Ontarians who suspect they have Lyme disease are diagnosed and treated.

In a Member’s Statement on Thursday, March 5, Clark said the health-care system is failing Ontarians with the disease, including many in Leeds-Grenville – which has been identified as a provincial hotspot for the ticks that carry the bacteria that causes Lyme.

“OHIP won’t cover the cost of an effective test to confirm a person has Lyme disease, so patients are losing valuable time by enduring multiple tests when they should be starting treatment,” said Clark. “We know the number of Lyme cases in Ontario is rising and I think the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care needs to act with some urgency.”

Clark made the statement in response to the stories he’s heard from constituents whose lives have been devastated by the effects of the disease. He spoke in the Legislative Assembly about the experience of one of those people, Mallorytown resident Karen Brown.

“It’s tragic to see these once healthy people suffering because they can’t get a proper diagnosis and the necessary treatment. We know that the earlier treatment for Lyme disease starts, the better chance there is of reducing the long-term health effects,” stressed the MPP.

Clark argued OHIP funding for a more effective test wouldn’t necessarily cost the health-care system more.

“It’s about reallocating our resources. Right now, we’re wasting money sending patients for multiple tests for Lyme and other conditions,” explained Clark. “Instead, let’s fund an effective test at the start, begin treatment and save the system the additional long-term costs we’re incurring now by allowing the disease to take hold of a patient.”

In addition to funding a more accurate test for Lyme disease, Clark said the province must take a closer look at whether the current treatment protocol – typically a two- to three-week course of antibiotics – is effective.

“We need to equip our medical professionals with all of the tools they need to treat their patients and I’m afraid that’s not the case in Ontario today,” said Clark.

The Hansard transcript of Clark’s statement follows and it can also be viewed on his YouTube site here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OykaKxuejvg&feature=youtube_gdata

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
Wednesday 5 March 2014
LYME DISEASE

Mr. Steve Clark: I rise on behalf of the growing number of people in Leeds–Grenville whose lives have been shattered by Lyme disease.

Like many MPPs, I have stood in this place to introduce petitions on behalf of the people I represent, pleading to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to do better for patients with Lyme disease—patients like Karen Brown.

Karen was bitten by a tick just before Thanksgiving last year at her home in Mallorytown. Her life hasn’t been the same since. As she wrote to me, “This is no longer me living my retirement dreams but living a very restricted lifestyle without knowing any relief from the pain.”

Meanwhile, the response from Ontario’s health care system is one that too many Lyme disease patients have experienced. Karen had two tests for Lyme come back negative because OHIP won’t cover the appropriate test to diagnose her disease. Instead of treatment to make her better, she is sent for more tests while her health deteriorates as Lyme tightens its grip.

Our health care system is wasting money and, worse, the precious time Karen and other Lyme patients have to get started on treatment.

Speaker, I’ve heard the minister repeat her mantra, “the right care, at the right time, at the right place,” too many times to count. My message to the minister today is that her words ring hollow for Lyme patients like Karen Brown.

It’s time the Ministry of Health moves beyond empty words and takes real action to ensure that those suffering from Lyme disease are diagnosed and treated before more lives are destroyed.

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