How Many More Di­a­bet­ics Will Die For Lack Of Proper Med­i­cal At­ten­tion?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

Woe be­tide you should you be di­ag­nosed with a se­ri­ous ill­ness in a is­land de­void of the most ba­sic of med­i­cal re­sources or where treat­ment is avail­able but be­yond your means. Saint Lucia is one such place. The ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion has lit­tle choice but to de­pend on bush reme­dies pre­pared at home, of­ten with dire con­se­quences.

Here, kid­ney dis­ease is ram­pant. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­ports, some 120 Saint Lu­cians are un­der­go­ing dial­y­sis treat­ment. As many are on a list wait­ing for treat­ment. But at the is­lands two hospi­tals there are only 17 dial­y­sis ma­chines. This week the health min­is­ter, Sen­a­tor Mary Isaac, told the na­tion what al­ready it was well aware of: that the op­tions avail­able to suf­fer­ers of kid­ney dis­ease on the is­land were ex­tremely lim­ited. She of­fered lit­tle com­fort.

She told re­porters: “For a short time we will con­tinue to main­tain the ma­chines at Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal and then we’ll see what hap­pens from there.” While ac­knowl­edg­ing “di­a­betes is a real pri­or­ity for us in Saint Lucia,” she also seemed to be say­ing many would die be­fore there is any se­ri­ous change in the ex­ist­ing cir­cum­stances. The St. Lucia Di­a­betes and Hyper­ten­sive As­so­ci­a­tion, the Blind Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion too, are es­pe­cially wor­ried. Re­nal fail­ure, a con­se­quence of un­treated di­a­betes, is fast be­com­ing com­mon­place.

As if fur­ther to un­der­score the deadly sit­u­a­tion, Sen­a­tor Isaac this week ad­vised reg­u­lar res­i­dents to take bet­ter care of them­selves.

“We have to look at tack­ling that from a holis­tic stand­point from birth,” she said. “Peo­ple must change their life­styles, eat­ing habits and every­thing else.”

She also un­der­scored the need to get to the root of the mat­ter and to de­ter­mine the causes for the es­ca­lat­ing cases of di­a­betes on the is­land. “We want to put things in place so that peo­ple can start look­ing at their life­style, peo­ple can start em­brac­ing the whole health no­tion that be­cause I am healthy to­day does not mean that to­mor­row I am go­ing to be healthy.”

Last month, this news­pa­per, pub­lished an in­ter­view with the then Di­rec­tor of the St Lucia Di­a­betes and Hyper­ten­sive As­so­ci­a­tion Ge­orge Eu­gene, and Kevin Hanville, Part­ner at Te­na­cia Global, an in­ter­na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion con­cerned with reducing the high cost of treat­ing di­a­betes. At the time, Hanville had been do­ing the nec­es­sary ground­work for a pi­lot pro­ject that would tar­get the di­a­betes epi­demic in the Caribbean. After a de­ter­mi­na­tion from the Amer­i­can Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion (ADA) that 70 per­cent of the cost of di­a­betes is due to the mis­man­age­ment and non-com­pli­ance of pa­tients, plans were un­der­way to launch an ini­tia­tive that would ap­proach the health cri­sis on the com­mu­nity level, and aid in bring­ing tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts to Saint Lucia as part of a large-scale pi­lot pro­ject to be rolled out on the is­land early next year.

The Amer­i­can Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion is a part­ner on the pro­ject, and ac­cord­ing to Hanville was “ex­tremely ex­cited to be work­ing with us be­cause no­body has tack­led the di­a­betes prob­lem in this fashion.” Ad­di­tion­ally: “It is nec­es­sary to tackle it at the com­mu­nity level be­cause you can­not do it in the cur­rent in­fras­truc­ture. The doc­tors and nurses are all over­worked. You can’t pull them out of what they’re do­ing and get them touch­ing the cus­tomer six times a year, four times a year, how­ever much, they just can’t do it. Nei­ther can you af­ford to pay a doc­tor or a nurse to go do that. But by cer­ti­fy­ing home health-care work­ers to do that, to do the blood tests, sim­ple mea­sure­ments and that kind of stuff, you have a much less ex­pen­sive as­set you can use. You’ll also be cre­at­ing jobs.”

Hanville said the so­lu­tion for Saint Lucia and other Caribbean is­lands had much to do with com­mu­nity in­volve­ment. He talked about train­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties caused by re­lated ill­nesses, peo­ple who could help change per­spec­tives and even dis­pel myths that dis­cour­age peo­ple from seek­ing treat­ment in the first place.

“If there’s some­body who has an am­pu­ta­tion for ex­am­ple and can’t work, let’s fig­ure out a way to plug them in here,” he said. “Let’s put them be­hind a desk in their lo­cal com­mu­nity, as a pa­tient ad­vo­cate. Let that per­son do data en­try, for in­stance, so we can show that you can be pro­duc­tive even though the dis­ease has dev­as­tated you. You can still be a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety, re­gard­less. If such peo­ple are first to talk to di­a­betic pa­tients, they will re­al­ize they are not alone. The pa­tient might think, I bet­ter change my habits or I’m go­ing to wind up like this. If I don’t do any­thing this is the out­come. It’s all kinds of lay­ers and mo­ti­va­tions that get peo­ple to change their be­hav­ior. We know what the out­come will be if we don’t do this. And it’s not good.”

Where pre­ven­ta­tive health­care mea­sures and fight­ing the di­a­betes epi­demic is con­cerned, Hanville added “noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble. It takes peo­ple with vi­sion and a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to go, ‘oh yeah, that is the so­lu­tion,’ in­stead of go­ing, ‘no that isn’t go­ing to work.’ We’ve got solutions; we just need the abil­ity to ex­e­cute. The prob­lem is that the cur­rent sys­tem does not al­low for that type of ex­e­cu­tion be­cause it would be too ex­pen­sive.”

Re­search con­ducted here by Geneva-based W Science, in 2015 in­di­cated that some 25 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion suf­fered, of­ten on their own, from di­a­betes. While for­eign aid was avail­able for the treat­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, not so with di­a­betes.

In­di­vid­u­als un­der­go­ing dial­y­sis treat­ment re­quire a min­i­mum of three ses­sions per week. Each ses­sion is val­ued at $150.00 EC

Re­cently, Min­is­ter for Health and Well­ness, Sen­a­tor Mary Isaac dis­closed that the govern­ment is aware of the acute sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing the over-use of the dial­y­sis ma­chines.

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