A Corrandulla man who was recently diagnosed with diabetes is calling on the HSE West to provide a foot screening programme and check-up service for sufferers in the region. The condition affects one in 20 people.
Michael Bowe, who lives in Tonamace and was diagnosed with the condition recently, says investing in both the hospital and community diabetes podiatry service locally would save the cash-starved health authority a fortune and make a huge difference to sufferers’ quality of life.
He describes the current service as “inadequate” and says as diabetes is a key lifestyle illness it is important that the HSE invests in its prevention.
“Between 2005 and 2009 over €11.4 million has been spent in Galway treating preventable diabetic foot disease. Of the 797 patients from Galway city and county admitted for treatment for foot ulcers during that time, nearly 40 per cent had diabetes. A further 73 people with diabetes from the county had a lower limb amputation in the same period.
“As a result of undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes and under-resourced services people with diabetes are needlessly developing costly foot complications, leading to prolonged hospital stays, long periods of immobility or amputation.’
He says more than €60 million was spent treating 2,062 patients with diabetes for inpatient diabetic foot disease between 2005 and 2009 in the HSE West region.
“Nationally we have spent €239 million treating preventable diabetic foot complications over that time. We can lower this cost dramatically by investing in both the hospital and community diabetes podiatry services to provide a simple foot screening programme and follow-up service.”
International research indicates that diabetic foot disease can be reduced by more than 50 per cent by foot screening and an annual check-up for people with diabetes, he explains.
“The HSE’s estimated cost of employing one hospital or community podiatrist to work locally to prevent diabetic foot disease and to run a screening programme is from €65,000 to €80,000 per annum.
“A modest investment of just €1.56 million per annum (the HSE’s estimated cost of employing 20 podiatrists for diabetes ) could provide a nationwide service and significantly reduce the current costs.”
Mr Bowe, who is an artist, outlines Ireland has the lowest manpower in terms of podiatry services for diabetics in Europe.
“There are only two podiatry hospital posts and a fragmented community service. The HSE’s Diabetes Expert Advisory Group report (April 2008 ) recommended 100 podiatrists nationally with the immediate employment of 20 to work on screening and foot care with people who have diabetes.
“I am also aware that in 2012 the first ever Irish podiatry degree graduates will qualify. Let’s ensure we don’t lose their expertise after investing in their education.”
Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames who has written to John Hennessy, the regional director of operations for the HSE West, and to the Department of Health and Children calling for the setting up of a local service as part of a National Foot Screening Programme.
“The facts below are startling - 73 amputations, etc, as a result of diabetes. I have written to John Hennessy asking him to outline current podiatry service and future plans. Diabetes is a key lifestyle disease and we need to invest in its prevention. Otherwise, the cost of healthcare and treatment in the future will be off the scale.”