Saskatchewan children and teenagers living with diabetes and endocrine conditions have received a needed boost in access to care. Early this month, the Ministry of Health invested an additional $470,000 a year in funding to the pediatric endocrinology and diabetes program to support the hiring of a team of healthcare professionals dedicated to providing optimal care for the children of Saskatchewan.
"Children across Saskatchewan will benefit from this enhancement to the provincial Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes program," says Health Minister Dustin Duncan. "Our government is pleased to provide funding to improve access to these specialized health services through Saskatoon Health Region."
"Our vision is to create and maintain a center of excellence in Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrine care for Saskatchewan, and this investment is a critical initial step in fulfilling that vision," says Dr. Munier Nour, pediatric endocrinologist with Saskatoon Health Region and University of Saskatchewan. "To properly care for children who need diabetes care and endocrinology, you need a team who can create a sustainable clinical program and provide educational, therapeutic, social and research support. This team works together to improve quality of life and outcomes by improving access to care."
This funding builds on previous investments in the program, which saw Dr. Nour hired in 2014, followed by Dr. Mark Inman in 2015. The additional funding will be used to hire a team to support the program in delivering diabetes and endocrinology care, including diabetes and endocrinology nurses, a dietitian, an administrative assistant and a social worker.
"Children and families living with chronic conditions need comprehensive and ongoing self-management education and supports, provided by a highly skilled inter-professional team," says Leslie Worth, Saskatoon Health Region's manager of Chronic Disease Management, whose area is responsible for the pediatric program. "For example, our current practice is to admit newly diagnosed children to hospital for three to six days of intensive diabetes management. This team provides medical and self-management education and psychosocial supports for the children and families while in hospital and ongoing until they transition to our adult clinics."
The ultimate clinic goal is to enable regular follow-up visits to occur every three to four months for diabetes patients and to reduce wait times for other non-urgent care to less than six months.
"There are roughly one to two newly diagnosed diabetes patients in the province every week. The vision is that all children will have access to the same treatment regardless of their address," says Sheila Achilles, Saskatoon Health Region's director for Primary Health and Chronic Disease Management Care. "The Chronic Disease Management Pediatric Diabetes program in Saskatoon follows approximately 400 children with diabetes. With both Dr. Nour and Dr. Inman here now, we have the pediatric specialist expertise in place, but we also need the inter-professional team in place to improve care and access for our children and families. This will improve access and optimize their medical management, keeping children out of hospital, and allowing them to lead healthy and productive lives in their communities."
While patients today are primarily seen in Saskatoon, the goal is to bring care right to the communities that need the support.
"We want to build this program locally and eventually be able to offer outreach clinics to other communities. We know the demand is there, and it is often a challenge for families to travel. We envision working with local healthcare teams to support them in providing best practise clinical care along with providing education and social supports for children with diabetes and endocrine conditions," says Dr. Mark Inman, pediatric endocrinologist with Saskatoon Health Region and University of Saskatchewan. "Our program will provide children and families in Saskatchewan with the necessary tools and resources to manage their diabetes and endocrine conditions with confidence and success – at home. This is critical at an early age in order to ensure that these children and families have the best possible outcomes in later years."
The Region is currently recruiting for this team and hopes to have the additional members in place within the next few months.
Watch the team answer media questions on this announcement in this video.