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Budget 2022 makes good on dental care, but little in new health spending

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OTTAWA — The Liberals have made good on promises to the NDP when it comes to health spending in their newly released budget, but offered little else in new spending to reinvigorate Canada’s struggling health system.

The government expects to launch a new dental program in 2022, starting with children under the age of 12 at an initial cost of $300 million.

The scheme laid out in the budget is a major tenet of the Liberal’s confidence and supply agreement with the NDP to keep the government in power until 2025. The budget closely mirrors the opposition party’s costed platform proposal from the 2021 election, though details about how it will work are still sparse.

The new program will be restricted to families with an income of less than $90,000, with no co-pays for those who make under $70,000 per year.

The plan is to expand eligibility to children under the age of 18, seniors and persons with disabilities in 2023. The government expects full implementation by 2025, with an annual cost of $1.7 billion.

In total, the government expects to spend $5.3 billion over five years on dental care.

The Liberals also committed to passing a legislative framework for a national pharmacare plan by the end of 2023 as part of their deal with the NDP, but did not set aside any funds for the program in the budget.

While the government contemplates adding to public health care, provinces and health workers have warned the existing system is crumbling and in desperate need of help.

Provinces have clamoured for the federal government to increase its share of health spending, with an immediate increase of about $28 billion, to shore up their struggling systems.

Health transfers to the provinces will increase in 2022, but not nearly to the degree provinces have asked for.

They want minimum funding increases of five per cent annually, arguing the current plan of three per cent jumps in spending means transfers don’t keep pace with yearly cost increases.

Currently, federal contributions to provincial health systems grow in line with a three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product. Thanks to a sunnier economic outlook than expected, the transfers will rise by about 4.8 per cent.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos previously announced a $2-billion one-time boost for provincial health systems to work through the massive surgical backlogs that accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the budget, the government alludes to the possibility of further negotiations on health transfers, but says that money would have to be tied to government priorities like increased access to primary and mental health care.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada already spends a lot on health care compared to peer countries but doesn’t get better outcomes, which is why the government wants to take time to “do it right.”

The budget does not appear to respond to the near-frantic pleas from health workers for a plan to address a serious staff shortage, as burnt-out employees reduce their hours and leave the industry in droves.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions said this budget was supposed to be the light at the end of a dark tunnel, when they would finally get a sign that things would change. But president Linda Silas says they were left disappointed.

“We’ve been telling all levels of government that we’re in a crisis situation, and we needed strong words today,” Silas said.

Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart said the budget identified some key areas of concern, but given the state of the system, action is needed.

“We are still in this pandemic, it’s not over. In fact, it’s potentially getting worse right now. The health workforce is struggling and we would like to see more tangible investments for the health workforce and the health system,” Smart said.

The only new measures involve expanding loan forgiveness for doctors, nurses and other health professionals in rural and remote communities, as well as making it easier for foreign trained professionals to be certified in Canada.

The budget also included funds to “finish the fight” against COVID-19, with $50 million in 2022 to finance the purchase of vaccines, tests and therapeutics; $50 million to maintain Canada’s emergency stockpile of critical health supplies; $18 million to maintain vaccine passports for one more year; and $25 million to maintain the ArriveCan app to track public health information for travellers.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will also get a $436-million boost over the next five years to track and assess the risk of viruses, flu and respiratory infections.

The government appears keen to wind down COVID-19 health spending beyond 2022, but has set aside $20 million to study the long-term impact of the virus on infected Canadians and Canada’s health-care systems.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Bird flu continues to spread among domestic, wild animals throughout North America – Just The News

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Strains of H5N1 avian influenza continue to pop up in birds around the country, with authorities reporting infections in both domestic and wild animals, including some wild mammals.

Officials in Washington state late this week confirmed two more outbreaks among flocks of birds there, stating that the infections were found in non-commercial backyard flocks of poultry. 

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, said the infection had been detected in three wild baby red foxes which subsequently died from the illness. 

“At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl,” DNR Veterinarian Megan Moriarty told media.

Moriarty predicted additional infections in mammals in the state but said “they likely will be isolated cases.”

Another baby fox reportedly died in Minnesota after testing positive for avian flu, as did two in Ontario, Canada. 

Three wild red foxes in Wisconsin also reportedly tested positive for the virus, with officials stating that they likely ate infected birds in the wild. 

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Wildlife rescue on Vancouver Island to limit visitors as avian flu continues to spread in B.C. – CBC.ca

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A wildlife rescue in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, is closing its visitor centre starting Monday due to the spread of avian flu in B.C.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Wildlife Rescue Centre, in Merville, B.C., announced it would be limiting visitors due to the risk that the disease poses to its captive birds, which include owls, eagles, and albino crows.

The decision comes after a small poultry flock in the Comox Valley tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus last week, the first such case on Vancouver Island.

It is part of a rapidly-spreading outbreak of the flu throughout North America, with eight cases recorded in B.C. since April 13.

The concern is that a visitor could inadvertently bring the virus to the MARS centre on their vehicle, shoes or clothing.

“All of the species that we have in permanent captivity here … they are especially susceptible to the avian flu,” said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation at MARS. “They are more likely to get severe symptoms, and actually die from the flu, than other types of animals.”

“It was a really difficult decision to close the visitor centre because we need the visitor centre to support the wildlife rehab program. But we just had to do it for the safety of our resident birds.”

The centre hosts two bald eagles and multiple owls that were previously rescued, as well as a red-tailed hawk. MARS also has two albino crows in residence named Nimpkish and Kokish.

Nimpkish and Kokish, two albino crows, are seen here at the MARS Wildlife Rescue. They are particularly susceptible to avian flu, according to Gylaine Andersen. (MARS Wildlife Rescue)

Andersen said the temporary closure comes at the busiest time of year for the centre. It might struggle to weather the loss of income without public donations, she said.

“At this time of year, we’re getting lots of little baby birds and baby mammals at the hospital,” she told CBC News. “Over at the visitor centre, this is when we would have the most visitation from the public.”

The MARS wildlife hospital remains open, according to the rescue’s website, but Andersen said it would be “an expensive time of year” without funds for PPE and other medical equipment.

Andersen asked poultry owners to be extra vigilant as avian flu continues to spread in the province, and also reiterated a call to take down bird feeders to stop the spread among wild birds.

Avian flu cases have been confirmed in several other provinces, but no infections have been detected in humans.

Officials say the illness is not considered a significant concern for healthy people who are not in regular contact with infected birds.

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Mental Health Issues Demand Resolution

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Should those who hold public office show that they are of sound mind and body before taking office and during the years they serve? Are those bureaucrats who truly run our government ever tested or investigated for various mental health issues that could surely affect their performance as public employees?

Imagine what the mental state of public servants is like these days? Besides the Pandemics’ influence upon us all, these men and women are responsible for public service to their communities and nation. Man public employees are under vigorous scrutiny for their honesty and performance as employees, but what about their mental health challenges? Various municipal, State and Federal authorities make attempts to pinpoint an employee in need, someone needing assistance and direction in their professional and personal lives, but it is difficult to do. Privacy and union issues often stand in between the person in need and those who would assist them. Furthermore, many employees refuse to seek assistance, for reasons of professional survival. Say an employee has an important job where many decisions are made influencing the community at large(ie Police). That person needs assistance for some mental health issues but fears either losing their jobs or being declared problematic employees, slowing promotions or professional advancement. They clam up, interiorizing their pain, fear or distress.

Most public institutions will honestly admit they do not invest enough into mental health services for their fellow employees.

Our elected officials have much to hide away from their future or present-day electors. What if they have a skeleton in their closet? A colourful personal history, a criminal record, possible mental health or physical health issue. Issues that are allowed to be hidden from the transparency portfolio. If asked, tell the truth(as they see it), otherwise hide what can be hidden. Politicians performing their service to the community, are placed under a microscope by the electorate and media alike. This must be stressful to them and their families too. Are elected officials ever evaluated for mental health status ever, before being elected and during their service?

Do you think anyone with a criminal record or under investigation should be removed or barred from holding office or in a position of public trust? Is the trust of the electorate easily given? A public official or employee could mishandle a portfolio, or commit a crime while in public service. How often have you seen such an individual stand before the media’s camera, proclaiming their innocence or sorrow of their actions?

We have heard many public officials call for hugely needed investments in the treatment of mental health issues, yet these investments are either moving at a snail’s pace or not at all. Our military and police have been calling for assistance regarding their need for mental health programs for two decades with little happening. The government’s response is usually words, words, and more words with little accountable assistance given. Our government has enough revenue to invest in weapons for the police and military, building structures and community centers, highways and new computers, but when asked to invest in people, their employees and the electorate, it’s either too costly or they have not the funds.

The Police and Military: Have an immediate need for trained mental health professionals, therapists and therapy-recoup centers. If the government can send them into harm’s way, they are responsible to maintain their mental health.

Government Agencies: Due to privacy issues, the government should make allotments to their employees available to find and go to therapy. A healthy employee is a trusted effective one. The government should source mental health professionals for those who serve them. Furthermore, Governments and their agencies are responsible to encourage, initiate and plan for the training of these professionals. A well-paid professional will make their placement a long-term investment. If our public employees can rely upon their employer to care for them, we can rely upon our public sector.

An established long-term mental health program needs to be established. This can be all-inclusive to the entire community. For example, gun owners, and drivers of vehicles should be required to invest their time in an interview and possible retraining every five years. Should a mental health issue be recognized, it can be dealt with appropriately and calmly. Bad habits, addictions, attitudes and illnesses developed over time can be recognized and something is done about them promptly and privately.

We have forgotten that much that we receive from and within our society is a privilege, something that should be earnt, and not awarded. Our mental health changes over time, and so too our responsibility to our communities, family and society. Is the public sector becoming our parents, our caregivers? In many ways, it is, and so our overall health, and that of our minds may be calling for community maintenance.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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