Newfoundland and Labrador provides insulin pumps for kids; B.C. still refuses to do the same

A recent story in a Newfoundland paper, the Western Star, features the smiling face of Liam Marche with his government-supplied insulin pump.

Liam's mother, Barb Marche, told the paper that within 12 hours of receiving the insulin pump, her young son felt better, and now he is able to go to birthday parties and be part of extracurricular activities without his mom.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys beta cells. Beta cells are produced in the pancreas, and are necessary to absorb blood sugars.

In the absence of an insulin pump, a person with Type 1 diabetes must have daily injections of insulin to survive.

Last year, Newfoundland and Labrador became the third province in Canada (the others being Ontario and Saskatchewan) to provide insulin pumps to children with Type 1 diabetes.

Meanwhile, parents of B.C. children with Type 1 diabetes are still waiting for an announcement from Health Minister George Abbott.

Last May, Abbott told the Straight that the government was conducting a PharmaCare review, and this would include an examination on whether or not to fund insulin pumps for children with Type 1 diabetes.

Last October, the Straight followed up on this issue with an article pointing out that B.C. parents are still forking out their own money for insulin pumps, which cost around $7,000.

In an unusual twist, NDP health critic Adrian Dix has Type 1 diabetes. He doesn't use an insulin pump, and instead takes daily insulin injections.

Type 1 diabetes can lead to serious complications -- including amputations, heart and kidney disease, and blindness -- if blood-sugar levels aren't managed properly.




Feb 24, 2008 at 3:15pm

We thank you for both mentioning our recent article in the Western Star and the important step the Newfoundland and Labrador government has undertaken by providing insulin pumps for children with Type 1 diabetes under 18 years of age. This proactive move will help to reduce the long term burden on the health care system. People living with Type 1 diabetes who are able to maintain control that is as close as possible to a healthy body have a reduced risk of diabetes related complications. They further are less likely to require hospitalization for diabetes related incidents due to "high" and "low" blood glucose levels. Such events can cost the health care system upwards of $1500 per visit and in Newfoundland, it is estimated that the average person living with diabetes will visit the hospital at least five times per year. That is a higher cost than supplying them with an insulin pump.

British Columbia does offer some assistance to those living with diabetes and has improved in the medications and devises supplied in recent years. We sincerely hope that the government continues along this track and seriously looks at becoming the fourth province to provide insulin pumps for their citizens with diabetes.

Thank you again for raising this very important issue.

Barb Wagstaff Marche