November 30, 2023

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Grey Nuns Hospital temporarily pauses admissions to insulin pump program

One of two insulin pump therapy program sites in the Edmonton region is temporarily pausing new admissions to catch up on a backlog of new patients.

“Due to capacity concerns and to help address wait times for patients with gestational diabetes, the diabetes specialty care site located at the Grey Nuns Hospital will be temporarily pausing new admissions to the insulin pump therapy program for a period of six months,” said Karen Diaper, corporate director of Covenant Health, in a statement to Global News.

Covenant Health, which operates the Grey Nuns Hospital in southeast Edmonton, stated: “There will be no impact to patients currently enrolled in the insulin pump therapy program during this time.”

Daniel Shafran, an internal medicine specialist who works with diabetic patients, said he was not surprised by the move.

“The program at the Grey Nuns is a phenomenal program and they’ve been under a tremendous load in terms of new referrals. The cracks started to form about a year ago,” Shafran said.

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“Historically there’s been two main pump centers — one at the Nuns and one at the University (of Alberta) Hospital. About a year ago the University was unable to serve outside referrals for patients who are starting on the pump — they were only able to serve their own patients starting on a pump.

As a result, Shafran said a number of doctors in the diabetes community began referring patients to the Nuns.

“So under this tremendous load, they’ve had to take the action that they’ve taken now,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Newer pump models available under Alberta’s Insulin Pump Therapy Program'

Newer pump models available under Alberta’s Insulin Pump Therapy Program

Covenant Health said the Grey Nuns Hospital is working with Alberta Health Services, the provincial health-care provider, to redistribute new patient admissions to other approved clinics in the Edmonton Zone, including the diabetes program at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic and two community insulin pump therapy programs.

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“Honestly it’s kind of  heartbreaking to hear,” said Rory Foley, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of four and uses a pump.

“I know without my pump, my control is really bad. It was nowhere near as good as it currently is.

“It’s given me a lot of freedom.”

Foley, 22, has been using a pump for the majority of her life.

“There’s a lot of people who have diabetes who aren’t getting these pumps now,” Foley said.

“For younger kids, it allows them to still be a kid. They don’t have to worry about controlling their diabetes, they can just be kids… so the fact that they’re not accepting new patients is really hard to hear.”

Shafran says he isn’t overly concerned about the backlog, since several smaller endocrine clinics have opened over the past year.

“That’s going to reduce the load that’s been put on the Nuns somewhat,” Shafran said.

“But really, what we need is more support from the government to help fund pump sites.”

At least three clinics in Edmonton are operating and approved as insulin pump therapy program sites. Shafran said it takes about two to three months from referral to get into one.

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“It’s going to minimize the impact somewhat but if it only gets the waitlist down to a year – that’s still too long,” Shafran said.

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