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HSE criticised over not funding gestational diabetes equipment

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes (an estimated one in 12 pregnancies) need to closely control their blood glucose levels and may have to take insulin under the instruction of a diabetic obstetric team. The average cost of the monitoring equipment (blood glucose strips and lancets) alone is €140 per month.

However, while this used to be routinely covered by the HSE, it has stopped funding the cost of the monitoring equipment and insulin in the last few years for non-medical card holders.

Diabetes Ireland Health Promotion and Research Manager Dr Anna Clarke commented to the Medical Independent (MI): “It is discouraging that the current Government is putting the health of pregnant mothers and our next generation at risk because of €500 per pregnancy.”

Dr Clarke pointed out that “for some, the cost of glucose monitoring strips can be prohibitive and may affect how frequently the woman checks her blood glucose levels”.

“Diabetes Ireland urges the Government to have these costs covered for pregnant women so that the health of our next generation is protected.”

In response to queries from MI, the HSE said the Maternity and Infant Scheme does not provide cover for medical equipment. “However, patients with medical cards have associated medications covered by their medical card and glucose monitoring equipment (glucometers) is made available through hospital diabetic clinics for all expectant mothers suffering from gestational diabetes. This is regardless of whether the expectant mother is a private patient or a GMS patient.”

The Executive spokesperson added that gestational diabetes is not covered by the Long-Term Illness Scheme as it is not considered a long-term or permanent condition.

Meanwhile, GPs have also criticised the HSE for not covering the cost of administering the flu and pertussis vaccine to pregnant women. Both vaccines are currently strongly recommended for pregnant women in Ireland. While the cost of the vaccines themselves are covered by the HSE, the administration cost is only covered if the woman has a GP Visit or full medical card, where GPs and pharmacists receive a €15 fee. GPs have claimed uptake rates of the vaccines among pregnant women are very low due to this.

The uptake among pregnant women attending the Rotunda Hospital last winter was 55 per cent for the flu vaccine and 32 per cent for the pertussis vaccine.

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