A woman who has been living with type 1 diabetes for 38 years has made it her mission to push the government to provide free continuous blood glucose monitors to all type 1 diabetics.
The government had made such a promise in its 2022 electoral manifesto.
Ruth Galea Pace, who was 12 years old when she was diagnosed, knows first hand how lifesaving the monitor can be.
“I started using continuous blood glucose monitors (CGMs) when I first heard about them about nine years ago. It changed my life. I feel safer now. Before I was scared to travel for work in case something happened but now I do.
“Basically, the system informs me with an alarm whenever my blood sugar levels spike (hyperglycaemia) or drop too low. The latter (hypoglycaemia) can be deadly. I had stopped using the monitor for three months and, during that time, I was hospitalised three times because I did not see the hypo coming,” Galea Pace, now 50, said. As their name implies, continuous blood glucose monitors keep constant track of a patient’s blood glucose levels using a tiny sensor placed under the skin, sending out alerts when levels get too low or high and allowing patients or their carers to better monitor their health.
Sensors must be regularly replaced – every two weeks – and costs can run up to hundreds of euros every month if purchased privately.
“I spend about €200 to €300 a month on them, which means I have to hold back on other things. I am lucky but not everyone can afford it. What angers me is that the government made a promise. What are they waiting for? These devices can save lives. They spend so much money on other things,” she said.
Last month, the Maltese Diabetes Association made a “heartfelt appeal” to the health authorities to introduce CGMs for all those with type 1 diabetes through the government formulary.
In 2021, the government introduced a pilot project where children and young people under the age of 16 were offered CGMs to monitor their sugar levels continuously.
In April 2022, it was revealed that the devices would be distributed to patients aged up to 21. The age was extended to 23 sometime after.
Since then, the authorities promised that CGMs were going to be introduced to those aged up to 35 living with type 1 diabetes by the end of 2022 and to all persons living with type 1 diabetes as from this year, the association recalled. The latter two promises were not yet fulfilled.
Galea Pace cannot understand this age discrimination. Elderly people will benefit from the peace of mind brought about by a CGM just as much as a person under the age of 23, she said.
Besides, she said, the continuous monitoring meant less complications and hospitalisations, which saved taxpayers money.
“Over the years, since I was a 12-year-old, the way diabetes is treated has changed. Back when I was a teenager there was not so much awareness and people who saw me with a syringe, for the insulin, assumed I was taking drugs. Now the syringes are much more discreet and injecting happens depending on the food consumed. There are advances in technologies that can help but people cannot afford them,” she said.