Speech: Diabetes

Speech: Diabetes Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (12:35): Type 1 diabetes is indeed a common disease, one that most people have heard of. While it's true that the majority of people are diagnosed before they are 19 years of age, that by no means makes this a children's disease. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that can be very difficult to manage, and can be deadly, as well as having serious complications like kidney failure, nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and blindness.

Organisations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation are doing great things in our communities, raising awareness and funding for research into this terrible disease. They are also inspiring young locals to do their bit to help. Last year, Nowra's Alicia Hughes started raising money for the foundation with a pledge to hike the Kokoda trail. Alicia is an inspiring woman who, after experiencing a severe hypoglycaemic episode, wanted to make a difference in the lives of people living with diabetes.

The truth is that we need to understand this disease better, but we also need to fund the treatment of it better. There have been a number of advancements in the technologies available to treat diabetes, but, for many people, the costs are prohibitively expensive. Continuous glucose-monitoring devices are small, wearable monitors that measure and display glucose levels throughout the day and night. They send alarms and warnings if your glucose levels are outside the set target range, and let you know if your levels are rising or falling. The National Diabetes Services Scheme does provide some subsidies for CGM products for those under the age of 21 years, those with concession cards and pregnant women. If you aren't receiving a subsidy though, these products can cost $4,000 to $5,000 every year.

As I said, diabetes might be diagnosed in childhood, but it is far from a children's disease. I'm regularly contacted by local people who are struggling with the costs of treating their diabetes, or that of their children. Three years ago, at the age of 20, Kia's daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Kia's daughter is studying to be a nurse—absolutely fantastic news!—but, because of her age, she could only receive funding for CGM for eight months, until she turned 21. Since then, Kia has had to find $250 a month to pay for this critical piece of equipment, which she sees as vital to keeping her daughter alive. Sadly, that wasn't the end of it for Kia and her family. This year her son was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, he was four days short of qualifying for the government's subsidies under the National Diabetes Services Scheme. Kia's son is an apprentice, something we all should be encouraging in today's world, but he earns too much for a low-income healthcare card. Now, Kia's family is looking for $500 every month to help her children manage their health conditions. Due to COVID-19, Kia was stood down for six weeks. Both she and her husband have had their hours reduced, and they are struggling. As Kia said in her email to me: 'Unfortunately, the risk of fatal hypos do not diminish the moment you turn 21. But our priority will always be with providing the best care we can for our children.'

Helping local people manage chronic health conditions like diabetes actually saves the government money in the long run. When chronic health conditions are managed, it keeps people out of doctors' surgeries, out of emergency rooms, out of our hospitals. It means people can go to work and contribute fully to our economy, instead of spending time away from work trying to manage the complications of their condition. We know we can manage diabetes and we know that, when it is properly managed, people living with diabetes can live full and healthy lives.

Another constituent I spoke with was told by her doctor that she should say she wants to have a baby, that way she could get help. At 21 years of age, this was unsurprisingly an upsetting and inappropriate thing for a young woman to have to do. So, while we are seeing great things in the private sector from organisations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there is a huge gap being left by government in this space. We need to be helping and supporting our community to deal with their diabetes, not only to help them but also to help our health system. The government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for real reform. This is just one area where they could be focusing their attention to help people like Kia and her family.