Protest by parents of children with diabetes


Parents of children with diabetes who have expressed serious concern at the lack of services for sufferers in Cork plan to hold a protest outside Cork University Hospital (CUH) tomorrow.

Children with diabetes in Cork, it has been claimed, are at risk of developing complications such as blindness, ulceration of the limbs and kidney failure because of the shortage of specialist staff at the hospital.

Up to 100 members of the Cork parents' support group of the Diabetes Federation of Ireland plan to hold a picket outside the hospital from 8am until noon tomorrow.

They are calling for the immediate appointment of a dedicated consultant paediatric endocrinologist, three clinical nurse specialists, two dieticians and a social worker. They say there is also an urgent need for a dedicated clinical unit for diabetes sufferers.

The number of children currently attending CUH with diabetes stands at 270 but the hospital employs just one general paediatric consultant who has a special interest in diabetes. There is one clinical nurse specialist post in place with the position being filled by two nurses on a job-sharing basis.

Charlotte Pearson, chairwoman of the parents' support group, said although the post of a full-time dietician for a children's diabetic service in Cork was given the green light last month, it has yet to be advertised because of a blanket ban on recruitment by the HSE.

"Per head of population we should have one paediatric endocrinologist per 75 children. We should have one dietician per 100 children; we haven't even got one. The children have no support. It is not an illness that is going to go away. It is imperative that we have a dietician because children need advice and support in relation to insulin, diet and exercise."

Cork suffers from "regional inequality when it comes to delivering paediatric diabetes services", Ms Pearson said, adding that services in Dublin are far superior to what is on offer in the county. It was "frightening" to think of the complications that could arise for children in the future if they failed to receive access to adequate support.

"All we have received since we started our campaign 2½ years ago are empty promises. It is frightening to think of the complications that could follow in the future for our children if they don't receive proper support and treatment. You are taking about renal failure, the need for laser surgery, ulceration of the limbs and so on."

Meanwhile, the HSE has insisted that the division of paediatrics is pursuing the appointment of a dedicated dietician at CUH and that a suitable candidate has been identified. The HSE South says the division has prepared a statement of need for the upgrade of the existing physical services for children with diabetes. It has developed a proposal to build an assessment and dedicated paediatric outpatient department and is awaiting approval to proceed with the project as an interim measure.

Last year a team of diabetes experts from the diabetes federation warned the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that Ireland is facing a diabetes crisis. They highlighted the decreasing age of type two diabetics, the spiralling levels of obesity aggravating the problem and the poor specialist services countrywide. The Government was called upon to urgently develop a cohesive strategy to deal with the problem.

Although numbers of diabetics in Ireland appear relatively small (an estimated 250,000 have diabetes with 100,000 undiagnosed), the problem is growing. The number of children with type one diabetes has almost doubled in the last five years.