I thank the Cathaoirleach for accepting this very important Commencement matter. As the Minister is no doubt aware, last Sunday, 14 November was World Diabetes Day.
It is a day when people who suffer from diabetes campaign, advocate and reflect on what needs to be done to improve the quality of their lives. Sadly, an increasing number of people in our country are being diagnosed with diabetes. It is a significant and serious health challenge, particularly if it is not treated properly and if the services, supports and structures are not in place to ensure the people who are diagnosed with diabetes can access them. That is the problem in the mid-west, in counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, which are serviced by the University Limerick Hospitals Group. The diabetic services and supports available at Limerick hospital are not, unfortunately, up to standard. A good friend of mine suffers from type I diabetes and, as such, I am fully aware of the timeline and what has and has not been delivered in Limerick hospital.
In 2006, the dose adjustment for normal eating, DAFNE, programme, which is now seen as the principal programme that people with type I diabetes should be part of, was rolled out. It is a structure and programme based on providing education around insulin so that people can eat and function normally. In 2006, the programme was rolled out in six areas but, of course, Limerick was not included. As time passed, the DAFNE programme was seen as the key element in terms of education and intervention for people with type I diabetes. In more recent times, the number of DAFNE-supported clinics providing this service throughout the country has increased to 15. It is now considered standard by the HSE and all of the experts who work in the area of diabetes that this should happen. Limerick is still lacking a DAFNE-supported structure even though there are some hospital groups that have more than one. Clearly, there is a problem.
I accept that there is problem around the retention of dieticians, diabetic nurses and endocrinologists. That challenge is faced nationally. The single biggest problem in the mid-west is that while posts are being advertised and, to be fair, the funding is in place, staff have not been recruited. There is still no dietician associated with the diabetic clinic in the University Limerick Hospitals Group. The number of diabetic nurses is far short of what it should be. Although the funding is in place to recruit diabetic nurses, they have not been recruited. As a result of the expertise and specialist professional medical people not being in place in Limerick hospital, the hospital is not in a position to roll out the DAFNE programme.
I want to know what the HSE is doing to resolve this problem in the mid-west. It is not fair that in the people in the region who are suffering from diabetes have to travel to Galway city to have their insulin pumps dealt with and to access the appropriate interventions needed. That is not good enough. It is great for the people for Galway that they have such a fantastic facility. I am delighted for them. The position is similar in Cork and other parts of the country. However, provision is not universal because the people of Limerick do not have a service. This issue has been highlighted annually for the past 20 years, in particular in the years since a very articulate group of people came together in the mid-west to fight the good fight. They were outside the hospital in Limerick protesting on World Diabetes Day to highlight this issue. I am hoping the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, will have some good news for me in terms of dealing with this problem such that, once and for all, people in the mid-west who are suffering from diabetes receive the same service as those suffering in other parts of the country.