Many Manitobans are struggling to make sure their blood sugars are in range as they are unable to access continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).
CGMs are small wearable monitors that send current blood-sugar readings to devices automatically. The monitors can provide warning of unpredictable events such as life-threatening lows during sleep.
Currently, CGMs are not covered in the provincial formulary, so patients have to pay to access this device. Some families have even lost their private coverage they formerly had through their work due to COVID-19.
“All Manitobans living with diabetes, including those in First Nations communities, deserve to have CGMs and insulin pumps covered so they can manage their diabetes without financial stress,” said provincial NDP leader Wab Kinew on Thursday.
Emergency Diabetes Support for Manitobans, a grassroots advocacy group, is trying to address this issue and has created the “Great Manitoban Fingerprick Challenge,” to raise awareness about diabetes and the lack of coverage on CGMs.
Several MLAs have agreed to take part in this challenge, including Kinew who believes that CGMs should be covered.
The challenge calls for insulin, pumps, pump supplies, and CGMs to be made readily available to all insulin-dependent patients in Manitoba.
“For me, this challenge is a chance, in a small way, to get an idea of what it is like to live with diabetes. This is such a huge issue in our society across our healthcare system. I want to show my solidarity and compassion for the people living in this situation,” said Kinew.
In a few days, Kinew will receive a kit which he will use to draw blood and monitor his blood-sugar level. He will then go to social media and talk more about his experience during the challenge and to bring awareness about diabetes.
Hollie Kirkness is a parent of a 10-year-old child with Type 1 Diabetes. Both her husband and son, Nikolai, are First Nations. She mentioned that the CGM has been a major help for her family.
“One of the things he had to adapt to originally was doing finger pokes. People with Type 1 Diabetes have to check their sugar constantly, so at least four times a day we are poking his fingers. At times, the tissue at his fingers hardens, so it becomes harder to draw blood,” she said.
However, the monitor that her son uses is a Dexcom G6 CGM system, which is a water-resistant sensor that can show the glucose number in real-time.
“The sensor goes into the fatty tissue and transmits all his glucose readings to his phone. So, he would only need one poke every ten days. It has cheered him up so much,” said Kirkness.
“The biggest advantage I found is that the CGM can show his blood sugar trends. The pokes are essentially a picture, you take it, and you can see where the blood sugar is in the moment, but you don’t know whether his blood sugar will go up or if it is minutes away from it being low.”
With finger pokes, Kirkness would need to wake up a few times in the middle of the night to get Nikolai’s blood sugar reading because if her son’s readings go lower than normal, he may slip into a coma.
The CGM has not only helped Kirkness and her family gain some sleep but has also enabled her son to perform physical activities without worrying about his sugar levels.
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun