Children with diabetes ‘lose out’

Children’s health will suffer with the loss of a quality paediatric diabetes service at University Hospital Limerick, a national campaign group has warned.

Over the last year, children’s diabetes services at the hospital had improved dramatically with the appointment of a full time locum endocrinologist replacing one on ‘half-time’.

The full-time consultant was solely concerned with medical care for more than 250 children with type 1 diabetes and, as a result, there was a fivefold increase in care and support.

Diabetes Ireland said families had been delighted and patients had received quarterly medical appointments.

However, the full-time post is reverting back to a half-time position.

Dr Anna Clarke of Diabetes Ireland said that, at a minimum, Limerick and Galway required a part-time post in each hospital to support their care plan.

“Cutting the Limerick service medical support by a fifth will put children’s health at risk on a daily basis and we will end up spending more on inpatient treatment and long-term complications. Our children deserve better,” she said.

Children with type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune condition, need three-monthly reviews to ensure their growth and development.

Diabetes Ireland said the part-time consultant could not physically review the 250 children attending Limerick four times a year.

Parents of the children now fear appointments will slip from next month when the service reverts back to a ‘half-time’ post.

John Saunders, whose 10-year-old son attends Limerick, had been very impressed with the management response to addressing personnel shortages in the past year.

“The improvements have been tangible for our son as well as for all children attending,” said Mr Saunders.

“It is vital to build on rather than reverse recent gains. To reduce resources now as patient numbers continue to grow would be a severe blow to the health and morale of all who use and work in this service.”

The part-time consultant is to be shared with Galway University hospitals as part of the plan to implement the type 1 diabetes model of care for under fives.

The care plan will see all children in the age category having access to insulin pump therapy, the optimal treatment for most young people with diabetes.

Dr Clarke said she was worried that what happened at Limerick would set a precedent for the rest of the country. “The whole of the west should be up in arms about this, not just people in the Limerick area.”

Care plan

- Four children a week are being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a lifelong condition requiring intensive medical and personal management to reduce the risks of complications in later life.

- Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune condition that affects a child’s ability to control the glucose level in the blood.

- Insulin is required regularly, either as injections or continuous infusion (pump) which must be balanced to food intake and physical activity level.

- Managing a child with diabetes requires education, motivation and ongoing support of the family from the specialist paediatric diabetes team.

- Diabetes Ireland’s helpline number — 1850 909909; www.diabetes.ie


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