More needs to be done about Lyme disease

Many constituents have e-mailed me over the years asking for concrete action on the growing threat of Lyme disease on Vancouver Island.

More needs to be done about  Lyme disease

Jean Crowder

NDP Member of Parliament

Many constituents have e-mailed me over the years asking for concrete action on the growing threat of Lyme disease on Vancouver Island. I recently had a chance to speak to this issue in the House of Commons. Here is an edited version of that speech.

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise in this House today to speak to Bill C-442, because like many other members in this House, I have constituents who have suffered from Lyme disease.

Sadly, for many constituents, it has taken months, if not years, to get an adequate diagnosis.

Bill C-442 aims to track the incidence rates, create educational materials to raise awareness about Lyme disease, establish testing and treatment guidelines, and track the related economic impacts of Lyme disease. It would also support the research and implementation of better and more reliable diagnostic testing and increased education and awareness among physicians.

The NDP believes that this bill would improve the treatment and outcome for Lyme disease sufferers. Back in 2010, I wrote to the Health Minister about the need for leadership on guidelines. The letter said:

“A number of studies have concluded that the tick vector is spreading rapidly in Canada, a process likely to be accelerated by climate change. Without current, up-to-date information about the geographical distribution of tick vector populations, doctors may falsely discount a possible Lyme disease diagnosis, and thus deny serological testing. In addition, the tick vector is also carried by migratory birds, and is therefore not isolated to any geographical region.

Ultimately, Canadians are receiving inadequate care or no care at all when it comes to Lyme disease, forcing them to leave the country to seek medical attention. This is a direct denial of their rights. New national guidelines must be put in place to address this serious contravention of the Canada Health Act. Canadians should have confidence in their health care system.”

In the response from the minister of Sept. 15, 2011, she wrote: “Climate change is anticipated to accelerate the emergence of Lyme disease in Canada. Endemic Lyme disease risk occurs in much of southern British Columbia, but the vector here is less efficient, and risk is relatively low.”

I would argue that, because the government was not doing the kind of surveillance and followup that was required in order to determine the real incidence, people were simply being excluded.

Although the government has moved to look at making this a nationally reportable disease in Canada, many people simply do not trust those numbers. Therefore, I will certainly be supporting Bill C-442.”

Bill C-442 passed the House of Commons and was read for a first time in the Senate on June 12.

If you want to encourage Senators to support the Bill, you can find their contact information at www.parl.gc.ca under the “Senators and Members” link.