Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, accepting the monofilaments from Simone McConnie of the??Diabetes Foundation of Barbados. Looking on are Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, and Chairman of the Foundation, Dr. Oscar Jordan. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

Health Minister Donville Inniss is satisfied that issues related to diabetes are being dealt with more at the primary care level as opposed to the tertiary care setting of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

His comments came recently as he accepted over 4,400 monofilaments, at a cost of $10,000, from the Diabetes Foundation of Barbados, to be used across the health sector in the detection of sensation or loss of sensation in patients’ feet.

Minister Inniss told representatives of the Foundation, senior health officials and media practitioners: "It is not for us about buying more wheel chairs to wheel amputees around or spending thousands of dollars in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital."

He stressed that the average length of stay for a patient in the QEH was six and a half days but for diabetics it could go up to three or four weeks.?? Noting recent figures showed patient stay at the QEH costs approximately $1,000 per person, the Health Minister said: "…That is a cost we need not shoulder if we get individuals to be more proactive in terms of managing their health care situation and if we can ensure that we have a well-trained cadre of health care professionals, particularly in the primary care setting and in the wider community who can help us to mitigate against this disastrous society."

Reiterating that diabetes was one of the major health challenges faced in Barbados, to the point where the island was considered the "amputation capital of the world", Mr. Inniss recalled: "We have talked about it for a number of years and placed a number of our financial resources on the curative side in terms of the acute care QEH setting, where really and truly often times it is too late to save a limb."

He noted, "It is the considered opinion of the Ministry of Health and the Government that we have to place far more emphasis and resources on the preventative side of this health care challenge."

According to Mr. Inniss, over the last three years, the Ministry had embarked upon a series of aggressive programmes with such partners as the Diabetes Foundation to ensure that the matter was addressed before it got out of control. He also outlined that, along with the National Commission on Chronic Non-communicable Disease, emphasis had been placed on exercise and diet as part of the strategy and educational campaigns had been mounted to sensitise Barbadians about the need to better manage their situation with periodic visits to doctors, podiatrists and other stakeholders to get the necessary care. Minister Inniss, nonetheless, stressed that the Ministry continued to work with the QEH’s clinical staff "to do what we have to do to delay amputations and other more radical and unnecessary actions."

As he thanked the Diabetes Foundation for its "wonderful partnership" and the gift, he remarked: "This perhaps is one of the best investments we would make. You mentioned $10,000 but that may be the cost to you; but the value to the Ministry really and truly may translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars as we may be able to early pick up and diagnose cases that we can treat at that level rather than wait until there are dealt with in the acute care setting."

The Health Minister concluded that the goal of both entities as well as other stakeholders was "to aggressively tackle and wrestle to the ground the challenges of diabetes in Barbados. He maintained: "It is a real and present danger that we have confronted and we are satisfied that success is in sight."


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