Centre of excellence
Around 1.7 million Australians have some form of diabetes, while another 2 million are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they grow older.
Evidence shows type 2 diabetes can be prevented in up to 58 per cent of high risk cases.
280 Australians develop diabetes every day – one person every five minutes.
By 2040, over 642 million people globally will be living with diabetes.
There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. All types of diabetes are serious, and can have a major impact on quality of life and life expectancy.
The GV Health Diabetes Centre is staffed by a team of clinicians that provide clinical care, education and support for people with diabetes in the Strathbogie, Moira and Greater Shepparton areas and Southern New South Wales. It is made up of several credentialed diabetes educators, an Endocrinologist, medical registrar, dietitian and podiatrist.
Endocrinologist Dr Balvinder Kalra has been at GV Health for two years, and says that education is crucial when managing diabetes diagnoses.
“We have a lot of diabetics in the region,” said Dr Kalra. “There is definitely a greater prevalence of diabetic patients in rural areas. We find people aren’t very aware of the important, healthy lifestyle options available.”
Dr Kalra says many local patients have issues preventing them from travelling to Melbourne to see an endocrinologist, which can influence a patient’s motivation to maintain their treatment.
“We have an excellent team of diabetes nurse educators, podiatrists and dietitians,” said Dr Balvinder. “We’re trying to raise awareness by providing information not just to patients but also to Allied Health and other specialists, so they’re aware there is a full multidisciplinary service within the hospital.”
The Diabetes Centre offers individual consultation as well as a range of services and specialist clinics for people with complex and complicated diabetes.
These clinics include GV Health Multidisciplinary Diabetes (MDD) Clinic provides outpatient clinics for patients with complex and complicated diabetes, a young persons monthly clinic, a High Risk Foot Clinic and a Diabetes in Pregnancy clinic for women requiring insulin during pregnancy.
Melissa McMahon was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, and is now pregnant. “I went through a stage where I just didn’t want to deal with my condition,” she said. “Then I found out I was pregnant, and at a higher risk.”
Ms McMahon discovered she was pregnant early thanks to her increased sugar levels, which led to her immediate referral to the Diabetes Centre.
“They got me in straight away,” she said. “Now I’m sticking to a very strict pregnancy diet. There are a lot of foods you take for granted – there are so many things you can’t have.”
The expectant mum is enthusiastic about the knowledge and range of services available at the centre.
“John Kilmartin is really great,” she said. “He’s constantly in touch – I was speaking to him three times a day after my pregnancy referral.”
The centre’s can-do, interactive attitude to treatment is particularly attractive to Ms McMahon. “There’s always someone you can always call. It’s all new to me – the restrictions, the new information, and a lot of appointments!”
Dianne Hayes and her carer Peter have been coming to the centre for several years. Dianne, who was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes 30 years ago, was referred to GV Health by her GP.
“I had one episode, really bad,” said Mrs Hayes. “I was totally out of it - even the ambulance couldn’t bring me around.”
Mr and Mrs Hayes, who live in Finley, make the trip down to Shepparton every three months to see Dianne’s specialist, Dr Kalra.
“She’s doing well now,” said Mr Hayes. “Dianne’s diabetes has always been up and down. I had to climb through the window of the house once because Dianne couldn’t open the door.”
The Hayeses couldn’t be happier with the treatment Dianne receives.
“They’re doing everything – they’re all really good!” said Mr Hayes.
Judith Wilkinson and Rhonda Marino are two of the Diabetes Centre’s credentialed diabetes educators.
Both Ms Wilkinson and Ms Merino have been working in the diabetes treatment field for twenty years.
“I was working in paediatrics,” said Ms Wilkinson. “I was seeing a lot of kids with
Type 1 diabetes and developed an interest in helping them.”
Ms Marino says a highlight of her job is the opportunity to “work alongside Judith and soak up all of her knowledge.”
The GV Diabetes Centre covers the full range of diabetes patients, from birth to end of life.
“Living with diabetes can be complex,” said Ms Wilkinson. “Our role is to teach self- management skills – how to use a metre, how to check levels. From a paediatric perspective it’s with a family focus, offering support and education for everyone.”
As a child moves through their life journey there are many changes and adjustments they experience that can impact diabetes management. As they enter adulthood they become more independent with their routine, and the service plays a role assisting and supporting kids and families through these stages.
“They graduate into the adult streams,” said Ms Marino. “It can be a challenge living day to day living with diabetes - you can’t have a day off for Christmas. If someone’s having trouble, we can offer support.”
The GV Diabetes Centre has links with the local Type 1 peer support group (GVTOPS). The group caters for all people living with Type 1 diabetes including parents, carers and families. They meet on a monthly basis at GV Health and also host social gatherings and guest speakers.
“We’re very lucky – we have a good team and a lot of local support in terms of the Centre,” said Ms Marino.