FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2017
QUEEN’S PARK – In a week marked by the opening of trout fishing, turkey hunting and farmers preparing to get on the land, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett asked the Minister of Health for an update on what is happening in the battle against Lyme disease.
After hearing from Lyme victims, Barrett took up their fight, pressing for awareness and action on Lyme and other infectious diseases. His Private Member’s Bill An Act to Require a Provincial Framework and Action Plan Concerning Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases Act, 2014, was passed in 2015 with unanimous support from all three parties.
“It has now been two years. We have the legislation,” Barrett said in the Legislature. “Can the Minister of Health tell people affected or potentially affected what action the government is taking on this law?”
Barrett also raised concerns about changes in the definition of the diagnosis of a positive Lyme case, as was changed by the federal government earlier this year.
“I get emails; people are now concerned that the revised definition may make things worse,” he said. “They ask, ‘Will it eliminate many chances of a timely diagnosis for many Lyme victims?’ Will the minister explain to this House—and most importantly to people writing in, people who feel they may be affected—how the changes to the government of Canada’s definition, now the Ontario definition, will impact people who may be suffering from this disease?”
Barrett plans on further pursuing this issue.
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at
[email protected] or 519-428-0446
ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Mr. Toby Barrett: To the Minister of Health: As we know, ticks and mosquitoes are emerging across Ontario, as are the diseases they potentially carry. And as people now venture out fishing, hunting, hiking and farming, they need to be informed. We now have legislation mandating a provincial framework and action plan on vector-borne diseases like West Nile and Lyme.
Minister, do we now have up-to-date surveillance data? Do we have up-to-date information for people, as mandated by law—education programs and brochures to prevent exposure to Lyme and other emerging infectious diseases? It has now been two years. We have the legislation. Can the Minister of Health tell people affected or potentially affected what action the government is taking on this law?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: As a result of the creation through my ministry of a Lyme disease stakeholder group—which was comprised of experts, public health officials, front-line workers and, importantly, many advocates and individuals themselves who have experienced Lyme disease, either of the acute or the chronic nature. As a first step towards developing that comprehensive plan last summer, we issued an education and awareness framework, and materials associated with that, to alert people to the situation across the province. Of course, surveillance and data gathering is an important aspect of that.
Now that that initial work is complete, we continue the work, including with our stakeholders, to look at other important aspects of Lyme disease. I’m happy to speak to that in the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Toby Barrett: Beyond that work, we know the Lyme and vector-borne disease legislation also mandates research, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases like Lyme. It mandates the sharing of best practices.
Earlier this year, the federal government changed the Lyme disease case definition for positive diagnosis of the disease. I understand that Ontario has accepted, and has adopted, that federal definition. I get emails; people are now concerned that the revised definition may make things worse. They ask, “Will it eliminate many chances of a timely diagnosis for many Lyme victims?”
Will the minister explain to this House—most importantly, to people writing in, people who feel they may be affected—how the changes to the government of Canada’s definition, and now the Ontario definition, will impact people who may be suffering from this disease?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: The member opposite is correct: This is such an important issue, the increasing prevalence and incidence of Lyme disease that we’re seeing. We’re from the same part of the province. I grew up in Simcoe. My parents took their five kids down to Turkey Point for a week each summer, and that’s one of the areas which is highly prevalent in Lyme disease. But we’re seeing it spread across this province, including in the north.
So he’s right: Now that we’ve focused on that important first aspect of education, awareness and data gathering, we’re moving on to issues of diagnosis and treatment. An important aspect of it, as well, is to provide resources and support to our front-line health care providers, particularly at the primary care level, where, quite frankly, there’s still a resistance among many health care providers about the reality of Lyme disease and the necessity of treating it properly. We’re working with our federal counterparts and everybody to make sure that we get this right.