Adult diabetics push province for insulin pumps

Device not covered by Manitoba after age 18

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WHEN Josh Goldstein was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, he never thought there would be a $7,000 price tag for him to live comfortably.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/12/2017 (1869 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WHEN Josh Goldstein was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, he never thought there would be a $7,000 price tag for him to live comfortably.

Goldstein, a 23-year-old paramedic in The Pas, is tired of poking himself with needles every day to regulate his insulin. He would prefer an insulin pump, a cellphone-sized computer that acts similarly to the pancreas and is more convenient than manual injections.

The pump is attached to outside of a patient’s abdomen and releases insulin through a small catheter, regulating blood glucose levels during mealtime and sleep.

Supplied Josh Goldstein pricks his finger to measure his blood sugar. He says an insulin pump would make his work as a paramedic easier.

The only problem? Manitoba health-care plans don’t cover the cost of insulin pumps after a diabetic turns 18, leaving Goldstein scrambling to come up with $7,000.

Although the need for a pump isn’t urgent, Goldstein said it would make working as a paramedic more comfortable. Since he works shift work, it’s difficult for him to regulate his blood sugar. Diabetics with a daily routine usually have greater success balancing their levels, he said.

“Over the past few years I’ve had a struggle maintaining healthy blood sugars. There is a large margin of error when I guess how much insulin I need to take,” he said. “Sometimes I can count the carbs wrong.”

The insulin pump would leave less room for error. Diabetics input their levels of blood sugar and carbohydrates they’ve consumed, and the pump dispenses the appropriate amount of insulin.

“This would be so helpful, but now there’s a big financial factor making me hesitant to get the pump,” Goldstein said.

Andrea Kwasnicki, the regional director in Manitoba for Diabetes Canada, said not only can insulin pumps preserve a diabetic’s quality of life, but the government will save money if it makes pumps free to adults.

“Uneven blood-sugar levels over a long period of time will result in other complications,” she said. “In the long term, hospital costs will go up if individuals living with Type 1 diabetes don’t have good blood glucose levels.”

Kwasnicki added that diabetes is a factor in 30 per cent of strokes, 40 per cent of heart attacks, 50 per cent of requirements for kidney dialysis and 70 per cent of lower limb amputations.

In a statement, the provincial government said it will continue to review the issue of funding insulin pumps to adults, noting the devices would have to be proven to be clinically effective.

The statement added that even though the province doesn’t cover the cost of the pumps, most diabetic medications, insulin, syringes, needles, blood glucose test strips, lancets and infusion sets used with the pumps are covered under Pharmacare.

Morgan Hanson-Oliveira, a 20-year-old student studying at the University Manitoba, also struggles with Type 1 diabetes, but she has a pump. She was diagnosed when she was seven and has been on the pump since she was 15. Fortunately, she got a pump before she turned 18 and the cost was covered by her health-care plan.

While attending school away from her hometown of Thompson, Hanson-Oliveira said her Type 1 diabetes is another form of stress on top of her school work, but the insulin pump relieves some of her worry.

She doesn’t have to do the math that’s required with daily injections. The pump tells her how much insulin is running through her body at all times.

“Diabetes is a hard disease to live with,” she said.

“Living with the pump does create that independence and peace of mind. Having to do injections three to four times a day when you’re not on the pump gets so frustrating.

“Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you need a pump any less.”

kiera.kowalski@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Saturday, December 16, 2017 8:02 AM CST: Edited

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