NEW GLASGOW – It’s been three weeks since a local woman set up an online petition to convince the Nova Scotia government to fund insulin pumps for children with diabetes. Tammy MacLaren says this is something that should be covered by the government and said the petition been getting plenty of attention across the province.
As of Sunday, the petition had more than 4,300 supporters.
“I’ve gotten a few responses (from MLAs). I know for sure that one MLA has received over 2,000 emails,” she said. “So, we’re hopeful that it will be worked into the budget.”
MacLaren started the online petition after her daughter’s school raised the $7,500 needed for its student Madison Moulton, 10, to replace her malfunctioning insulin pump. The fundraiser prompted MacLaren to do some research on insulin pumps. She was shocked to learn that families in Nova Scotia have to cover the devices that range from $6,500 to $9,000. She also learned that Nova Scotia is one of only two provinces in Canada that does not cover pumps.
An insulin pump allows diabetics to live their lives free of multiple daily needle injections and allows more flexibility in terms of what they can eat and their activity levels as a pump can change the amount of insulin quickly with the touch of a button and monitors blood sugar levels. According to a 2012 report from the Canadian Diabetes Association, "the indirect costs for persons switching from daily insulin injections to an insulin pump lead to fewer serious complications. This, in turn, leads to fewer deaths and a reduction in the people experiencing difficulty with daily living."
After researching this information, MacLaren didn't understand why insulin pumps aren't covered by the government, so she started the online petition.
The online petition allows for supporters to comment with their reason for wanting to see government-funded insulin pumps in Nova Scotia. MacLaren said the comments alone tell the story of why they should be covered.
“It’s just a lot of people that, like me, are shocked that this isn’t covered. Then, there are the stories of people living with this and families with two children, both on pumps and that’s $14,000 every four or five years (because they need to be replaced), that’s a car. Some people commented, ‘this is why I don’t own a home,’” MacLaren said.
“A mother in Trenton commented that she is quite sure that her son would still have his sight if he had an insulin pump when he was growing up. A 74-year-old wrote in a comment that he has pricked his fingers so many times that it hurts just to think about it. So, I think the comments tell the story in themselves.”
MacLaren said while she’s pleased that in three weeks the petition has gained more than 4,000 supporters, she wants to see it continue to grow as the issues gains more attention across the province.
“We hope it continues because the larger the number, the harder it is for the government not to consider it,” she said. “Last week was a great leap with Jamie Baillie from the PC Party making a statement about covering insulin pumps and Stephen McNeil’s statement from Liberal Party about how insulin pumps should be covered and it was very encouraging what the Health Minister said (in the media), that they’re seriously looking at it.”
Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson told The News in January when the petition was launched that the government is researching the costs and benefits of such a program.
“While we don’t have an immediate plan to fund insulin pumps, we are actively gathering the best information to help us assess the costs and benefits of an insulin program that would cover insulin pumps here in Nova Scotia,” he said. “No question, the finance of the province plays an important role on what new services we can provide Nova Scotians. That’s why it’s so important for us to get back to balance and ensure that we have our finances in order so we can continue in the future to improve services, like adding new services like insulin pumps for children in the province.”
MacLaren said it would be a win-win situation if the government decided to fund insulin pumps because a report released by the Canadian Diabetes Association shows that funding insulin pumps saves the government money in the long run. The report, titled "The Economic Benefit of Public Funding of Insulin Pumps in Nova Scotia," was released in 2012 and states that in the first year of implementation, the net financial cost to Nova Scotia is projected to be approximately $650,000 and the net financial savings is projected to grow each year, reaching approximately $1.4 million by 2032.
MacLaren said eventually, she would like to see insulin pumps covered for diabetics of all ages in Nova Scotia, but trends in other provinces show that it's easier to get government-funded pumps for children first and then expand the program later.
To support MacLaren’s petition, go to change.org and search “Nova Scotia Legislature: Fund insulin pumps for children.”