There’s a new program for Quebecers who have diabetes but no family doctor

“If you have a doctor, you have access to a nurse and a nutritionist. … If you don’t have a doctor, you are kind of left alone.”

Diabetes is a chronic illness affecting nearly 10 per cent of Quebecers. In 2019 alone, there were 35,180 new cases. The scientific literature has shown that about 30 per cent of people with diabetes will not receive a diagnosis.

About 80,000 Quebecers with diabetes do not have a family doctor — and about half of the cases have been diagnosed in the past six years.

You are reading: There’s a new program for Quebecers who have diabetes but no family doctor

“We created the program to help these people,” said Sylvie Lauzon, executive director of Diabetes Quebec.

“If you have a doctor, you have access to a nurse and a nutritionist and the information you need. But if you don’t have a doctor, you are kind of left alone.”

Diabetes has two forms: Type 1 and Type 2. With the more common Type 2 diabetes, “it is very important to educate the patients as soon as they are diagnosed,” Lauzon said. “Diabetes can be controlled if the patients are educated properly.”

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The program will offer online meetings and followup with health professionals, including nurses and dietitians. The online training modules will address topics related to patients’ diabetes. Having viewed the modules, patients will return to the nurse to have any questions addressed, Lauzon said.

“Diabetes involves a lot of self-management,” said Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, an endocrinologist and director of the Metabolic Diseases Research Unit at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute. “We can facilitate that self-management by patients with help from nurses, kinesiologists, dietitians — with one or two doctors to help.”

The program grew out of a request from Diabetes Quebec’s patients committee, which was asked to come up with 10 priorities, said Rabasa-Lhoret, president of the professional council of Diabetes Quebec. They named patients with no family doctors as their first priority.

“Another was, ‘What about all the people out there who have a family doctor but have Type 1 diabetes and should have an endocrinologist and don’t?’

“We took the two priorities we knew we could address quickly,” he said.

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For people with Type 2 diabetes, support will mostly focus on lifestyle, he said. That the patients will be better informed about their condition simplifies things for their family doctor — once they have one, Rabasa-Lhoret said: “It is good for the doctor to know a person has been through a program and is trained.”

People with Type 1 diabetes require more specialized intervention than those with Type 2, he said. There are about 1,000 people with Type 1 diabetes who live in remote regions of the province and must often travel great distances to see an endocrinologist. One goal of the program is to relieve the burden on family doctors in remote areas, including the Gaspé and the North Shore.

“To have a program announced by the ministry that addresses our reality is important,” said Cindye Audet, president of the patients committee.

“For people who will have access to a health-care team remotely, I think it will be extremely beneficial,” she said. “I know some people have to travel hours to see their specialist. It also means taking time off work. So this is one less stress. It’s an extraordinary step.”

The program will function as a training ground in online education for a younger generation of health professionals in such fields as medicine, nutrition and physical education, Rabasa-Lhoret said. The idea is to have a certified diabetes educator overseeing three or four stagières.

The impact of these programs will be measured, he said.

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