Three medical teams from the Cayman Islands returned from Tobago at the weekend after undergoing training to help reduce the number of amputations due to diabetes.
The Cayman Islands Diabetes Association sent two teams from Grand Cayman and one from Cayman Brac. Each team consisted of one doctor and one nurse from Cayman’s three hospitals, the Cayman Islands Hospital, Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital and Faith Hospital.
According to Health Services Authority statistics, 78 per cent – 64 out of 82 cases – of amputations at the Cayman Islands Hospital between 2005 and 2009 were to diabetic patients.
Among the six medical professionals from Cayman who attended the course in Tobago was Dr. Diane Hislop-Chestnut from the Cayman Islands Hospital.
“What the course really focused on was decreasing the amputation rates across the Caribbean,” she explained. “This is something we need to do a lot more about in the Island.”
She said this course had led to other Caribbean countries seeing a decrease of up to 50 per cent in amputation rates since it was introduced.
“Six of us went from Cayman, doctors and nurses. It’s not just one person that’s going to help with this. It takes a team of people,” she said, adding that podiatrists, endocrinologists, nurses, specialist doctors and GPs all had to work together to reduce the risk of amputation from foot ulcers.
“The aim was to make us more aware of diabetic foot ulcers and how to prevent them from happening. And, if they did happen, how to take measures so that they don’t get worse. This can be done by fairly simple measures such as observing gait disturbances,” she said.
The seriousness of diabetic foot ulcers should never be overlooked, Dr. Hislop-Chestnut said. “When someone has an amputation, their cardiovascular output increases dramatically and their risk of mortality over the next five years increases. They call diabetic ulcers the cancer of diabetes,” she said.
The international foot care training session was held in Tobago from Wednesday to Sunday last week, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Southwest Tobago and the Rotary club of Ledbury, UK, under the umbrella of Rotary International, which joined forces with the International Diabetes Foundation to host the programme. Three diabetes specialists and three podiatrists conducted the training.
The concept behind the project was to train the trainers, so the teams from Cayman have returned home and plan to train other medical professionals in foot care of diabetics and cut down on the number of amputations due to diabetes-related foot ulcers.
The training aimed to build awareness of the impact of diabetes, reduce the number of amputations, introduce preventive and recording facilities and establish a self-sufficient community service and foot care clinics.
An initial programme conducted in Tobago between 2002-2004 led to a reduction in amputation rates there of 54 per cent and other Caribbean countries have reported 50 to 70 per cent reduction in amputation rates.