Punctual visits vital for diabetics

Monica Darries checks the blood sugar level of Nazley Isaacs, from New Lentegeur. Picutred with them is Bernie Gelant.

Diabetics failing to attend appointments on time and not adhering to strict health recommendations are putting strain on services at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre (CHC).

The centre treats on average 950 patients every month, among them 15 new patients.

Monique Johnstone, health department spokesperson, said the facility had a high defaulter rate.

“We need the community to work with us to address this burden by attending the facility on appointment dates and heeding the health professionals’ advice,” she said.

Diabetes is not curable but it can be managed in a way that is not debilitating.

Ms Johnstone said patients who do not adhere to their appointment times, by default contribute towards waiting times, because they inevitably arrive at the clinic at another, unscheduled time.

Patients who are stable enough to collect their medication at off-site chronic collection points have a great advantage, as medication collections take approximately five to 10 minutes. At some of these venues patients are given free health education talks and exercises.

Ms Johnstone said the department currently paid a chronic dispensing unit (CDU) service fee of R24.25 (excluding VAT) per medicine parcel delivered to the contracted service provider.

“If clients do not collect their pre-packed parcels as scheduled, this has huge wastage and financial loss implication to the department,” she said.

Ms Johnstone said patients who default also place more strain on services at emergency centres, both at the CHC and the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital because they were not taking care of their health.

“They are not attending chronic clubs to effectively manage their diabetic condition, which in turn sees the patient becoming more sick, which ultimately sees them needing emergency care, which ultimately adds more service pressure at our trauma units,” she said.

“People should eat more healthy foods, stay active, adhere to their doctors’ appointments and take their medication as prescribed to avoid serious complications,” she said.

Ms Johnstone appealed to patients to use therapeutic groups effectively, as they only attend on average three sessions and do not come back for the other sessions.

Diabetic symptoms, including hunger and fatigue; unusual thirst; frequent urination; unusual weight loss; extreme fatigue or lack of energy; frequent or recurring infections; cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itching skin; tingling and numbness in the hands or feet; and blurred vision can be assessed by a doctor at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre (CHC) or the Tafelsig Clinic.

Meanwhile, Strandfontein Diabetic Support Group is trailblazing, with up to 120 members being tested every month at the community centre, in Cruiser Street.

Registered nurse Veronica Vember facilitates the group with the help of 22 volunteers, testing members’ blood sugar levels, blood pressure and doing weight checks on the last Thursday of the month.

They also host outreach programmes encouraging people to be tested and to live healthily.

Ms Vember said the club offered support and encouraged members to live independently.

They have also run campaigns at schools, raising awareness about diabetes and checking that children eat healthily.

“In between, stable chronic patients as assessed and approved by a doctor will collect their monthly pre-packed medication at an off-site support group or at the facility depending on what facility is closer to collection,” said Ms Johnstone.

She said unstable clients are followed up more regularly, possibly every two to four months, depending on their condition. These patients will not be able to collect their chronic medication at the centre’s chronic dispensing units until their condition stabilised.

Services at the centre for diabetics include six-monthly consultations with a clinician, foot screening, retinopathy screening, eating plans, nutritional counselling, therapeutic groups, and educational talks

The Strandfontein Diabetic Support Group meets at the community centre, in Cruiser Street, on the last Thursday of the month.

The next meeting will be on November 30, from 8.30am until noon. They do free weighing and presentations, distribute literature and do blood pressure and blood sugar testing, followed by a snack. Arrangements can be made for cholesterol testing. Donations are welcome. For more information call Veronica Vember on 021 393 2562 or Amanda Fester on 082 421 6897.

Ms Vember, who has been involved with this service since 2003, also runs Bayview Diabetic Support Group, which meets at Commission Assembly, in Birkenhead Avenue, Stranfontein, every second Thursday of the month from 9am until noon; and offers the same services as Strandfontein group. Ms Vember can also be contacted on 071 913 8601.

Diabetics in Lentegeur and surrounding areas can call Sandra Lewis on 087 903 7233.

Diabetics in Westridge and close to Town Centre library can call Carol Hendricks on 084 906 3905.

Diabetics in Portland can call Mercia Roman on 083 391 3452.