Nfld. & Labrador

MUN med students want age limit lifted for insulin pump program

Type 1 diabetes patients in Newfoundland and Labrador over the age of 24 who don't have private insurance have to fork out thousands of dollars a year from their own pocket to afford an insulin pump.

Students will meet with health-care officials and policy-makers next week

An insulin pump is a computerized device that mimics the way the body naturally produces the hormone by continuously injecting small doses of it. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Medical students at Memorial University are urging the province to remove the age restriction on an insulin pump program offered by the government.

Type 1 diabetes patients in Newfoundland and Labrador over the age of 24 who do not have private insurance have to fork out thousands of dollars a year from their own pocket to afford an insulin pump.

Medical students said Tuesday afternoon they hope the government will understand how medically and economically beneficial an expansion in the pump program could be in the long run.

They'll be advocating for it next week during the Provincial Day of Action, when students from MUN's faculty of medicine converge on Confederation Building to discuss gaps in the health-care system with policy-makers.

Maggie O'Dea, a second-year medical student at Memorial University, says the provincial insulin pump program makes good economic sense. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"The quality of life for a young adult at 25 is really important," said Maggie O'Dea, a second-year medical student.

"I don't think that we can undervalue the impact of someone who has tight control over this chronic disease, their ability to fully function in society and live a good and happy and fruitful life."

O'Dea said students are also raising the issue because the program makes economic sense. Good glucose levels, which are linked to the insulin pump, will eliminate other costly health complications like kidney disease and blindness down the road, she said.

"These complications cost our government so much money, so being able to provide patients with the tools to better manage their care, we are saving that money down the line," she said.

The Provincial Day of Action is an annual event in which medical schools across the country choose a health topic important to surrounding residents and than urge the government to make a change. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

An insulin pump is a small, computerized device that mimics the way the body naturally produces the hormone by injecting small doses of insulin on a continuous cycle, so patients don't have to manually inject themselves multiple times a day.

Next week students will meet with health-care officials and policy-makers to advocate for the issue.

Health officials say Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of diabetes in the country, and the region is ranked third highest in the world.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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