Crowdfunding meets goal to procure Lyme disease program files

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Globe and Mail Vancouver | Mark Hume | Sep 9, 2014

Crowdfunding Lyme diseaseSaying she was frustrated because patients weren’t being adequately diagnosed or treated for Lyme disease, Liz Zubek quit British Columbia’s new Complex Chronic Disease Program (CCDP) in June.

Now, Dr. Zubek has teamed up with Lyme disease patients in a crowdfunding project to pay a freedom of information (FOI) fee for the release of medical documents related to the program’s management.

Gwen Barlee, a Lyme disease patient and policy director of Wilderness Committee, launched the project Monday morning and by noon had hit the target, raising half the total $2,160 fee. Dr. Zubek had promised to match dollar-for-dollar any donations made, so she will contribute the balance.

“I worked at the Complex Chronic Disease Program. It was a $1.2-million program, and yet we were not able to do anything that was in our mandate to do,” Dr. Zubek said about why she was supporting Ms. Barlee’s project.

“We were supposed to be looking at better testing for Lyme disease patients, yet there was no facility to improve the testing or to order the testing that we needed from elsewhere. … we were not able to treat the Lyme disease patients. There was no IV setup there. And we were completely at a stalemate to actually be able to meet the mandate of the program,” said Dr. Zubek, who helped start the CCDP in 2013.

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With a waiting list of 1,500 patients, Dr. Zubek said she and other doctors faced a great demand for services, “but met with resistance” from above when it came to actually treating patients.

She hopes the documents sought by Ms. Barlee will answer these questions: “Who were the people behind the scenes that blocked us from ordering tests or treatments? Why were we not able to do this? Why did we meet with such resistance?”

In June, Health Minister Terry Lake acknowledged that the new program wasn’t meeting expectations. “They need to fix it,” he said.

Ms. Barlee, who has suffered from Lyme disease for years, said she filed the FOI request after three doctors quit the CCDP earlier this year, raising questions about the program’s effectiveness. She was shocked when the Provincial Health Services Authority told her it would not waive a fee for releasing records concerning the treatment and management of Lyme disease and demanded more than $2,000.

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