Local woman launches petition for government-funded insulin pumps

Published on January 29, 2013
Tammy MacLaren looks at a folder full of stories people have written in the comment section of the online petition she launched to convince the Nova Scotia government to publicly fund insulin pumps for children. The stories people write on the site are of parents who can’t afford to buy pumps for their children and teachers who have witnessed how insulin pumps improve children’s lives. AMY MACKENZIE – THE NEWS

NEW GLASGOW – A Pictou County woman has decided to push the provincial government to publicly fund insulin pumps for Nova Scotian children.

Tammy MacLaren’s children go to school with 10-year-old Madison Moulton, who was able to purchase a new insulin pump because the community fundraised more than $7,500 to cover the costs. The pump means the young girl can live her life free of multiple daily needle injection of needles and allows more flexibility in terms of what she eats and activity levels as a pump can change the amount of insulin quickly at the touch of a button.

Moulton’s medical insurance doesn’t cover purchase of a pump because she was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age. She is one of many children in the province whose parents must pay out of their own pocket for the expense.

“I was just shocked that there wasn’t some sort of funding that the government provides. Then, I kind of got mad,” MacLaren said. “I was like, ‘well, why isn’t there?’ Then I started doing some research on my own and found that other provinces are funding insulin pumps in some form.”

On Thursday, MacLaren launched an online petition in an aim to convince the Nova Scotia government to fund insulin pumps for children and youth under 18. By Tuesday, she had about 1,200 supporters.

Dayle Crouse, Moulton’s mother, said an insulin pump dramatically helps improve the lives of children and youth living with diabetes.

“An insulin pump really makes their life more flexible. It’s not rigid. If they want to go and spend a night at a friend’s house, or if there is a birthday party, they can have the cake or slice of pizza or they can sleep in on the weekend,” she told The News in November. “I know she’s only 10, but she’ getting close to being a preteen and their activities are so varied. Their parents aren’t always with them so it allows them to be really flexible.”

Lisa Matte, Canadian Diabetes Association regional director for the Maritimes, said Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are the only two provinces that do not provide any funding for insulin pumps.  

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s website says the pumps costs approximately $7,000, they need to be replaced every four to five years and supplies costs about $3,000 a year.

“That’s a lot of money on top of the supplies. Some people can afford to buy that for their kids, but a lot of people can’t,” MacLaren said. “They’re struggling just to keep their homes and feed their kids.”

Matte said she’s seen other governments decide to fund insulin pumps because of letter-writing campaigns from citizens to provincial politicians combined with lobbying by the Canadian Diabetes Association.

“In this province, I haven’t seen an actual petition organized before so it’s really an interesting approach,” she said of MacLaren’s campaign.

Matte said the Canadian Diabetes Association has been lobbying the Nova Scotia government for about six years now to fund insulin pumps for children and youth. They have been meeting with officials and released a report on how Nova Scotia’s health care system could save money in the long term by investing in an insulin pump coverage program.

Minister of Health and Wellness David Wilson said in an interview that the government is looking into 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 she believes everyone of every age should have free access to insulin pumps, but trends in other provinces that successfully implemented such a program show it’s easiest to start with covering those under 18 and then gradually include adults in the program if it’s successful. She said the online petition is just a simple petition allowing supporters to sign electronically and an email is sent to the province’s MLAs. To support MacLaren’s petition, go to:  HYPERLINK "https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/nova-scotia-legislature-fund-insulin-pumps-for-children" https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/nova-scotia-legislature-fund-insulin-pumps-for-children