There is no denying that the impact of diabetes can be very far reaching. It could lend to the development of complications such as renal failure and without life-long dialysis or an eventual kidney transplant, the ultimate outcome could be fatal.
Over the years the Ministry of Public Health has reportedly recorded an increased number of persons of all age groups developing diabetes and by extension, renal failure.
It was against this background that a desperate move was made last year to introduce a strategic programme to specifically tackle the challenge of diabetes.
Speaking to the issues recently, Minister of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings disclosed that the Guyana Diabetes Care Project began operation in June 2016 and saw the establishment of a centre for diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.
Part of the project saw the introduction of a programme aimed at improving care to mothers with gestational diabetes and diabetes in pregnancy.
Since the introduction of the project, 103 persons have been screened for diabetic retinopathy and eight received treatment, according to Minister Cummings. She added, too, that the project is in the process of validating the Indian Diabetes Risk Score, which is a simple paper-based tool to detect undiagnosed diabetes mellitus.
The latter initiative was developed in 2009 and involved partnerships with the private sector enterprises of the country to procure insulin, glucometers, testing strips, pens, lancets and prep pads for children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.
But according to Dr. Cummings, “Unfortunately, the private sector enterprises have abandoned the cause, but the Ministry of Public Health continues to ensure that supplies are procured in a timely manner and in adequate quantities”.
There are 63 patients still currently registered in the programme. But back in 2009 the Ministry had boasted of having a diabetes register that was proving to be a success for doctors who, through this avenue, were able to keep track of their patients and were thereby able to ensure that they utilise the correct medication.
At the time there were approximately 7,000 persons living with diabetes.
In Region Two, there were 226 persons on the diabetes register and these were reportedly monitored individually to assess the evolvement of the disease.
It was noted that of the 226, a mere five had Type One diabetes (insulin-dependent) which occurs mostly in children. There were also 240 complications being experienced by those living with the disease, 209 of them had hypertension and four living with renal failure and five of them had developed strokes.
There were then 41 persons on the registry who were between 15 and 44 years old, while in fact there were two persons who were between five and 14 years old that lived with the disease.
But that was then when the numbers were believed to be stable and the Ministry was forthcoming with the data related to diabetes. Based on reliable information received by this publication, the number of persons living with diabetes today by far exceeds what obtained back in 2009.
In addition to monitoring patients, the diabetes registry was also intended to assist the Ministry in monitoring the amount of drugs being used by each hospital, thus minimising the possibility of persons stealing drugs from the bond.
The registry further served to reduce the waiting time at hospitals and health centres, as doctors and nurses do not wait for people to show up with the illness, but they can now monitor patients from their homes, so as to delay some of the complications experienced. They can manage the disease better in identifying the risk factors at an early stage.
In effectively tackling the issue, the Health Minister explained that there are currently foot care programmes in the Primary Health Care system. There are 26 health facilities in Guyana that have foot care programmes where screening of certain kinds of foot problems is done.
By 2010 it was predicted that there would have been more than 50 health facilities in Guyana which will provide screening. Added to this, the Ministry had introduced a public awareness campaign to teach citizens to examine their own feet, thereby allowing for a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of amputation.
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