In March, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) diabetes care team extended the hours of operation for its diabetes hotline in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and demand for the service is "continuing to grow" with 1,810 calls received during April.
The hotline, a medication home delivery service, virtual consultations and an outreach programme targeting patients who have poorly controlled diabetes, are all part of a strategy that has been put in place to help protect diabetics, HMC has said in a statement.
Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, director of HMC’s Qatar Metabolic Institute and co-chair of the National Diabetes Committee, said people with diabetes have decreased immunity and must take extra precautions to protect themselves from Covid-19. He says his team has worked hard to ensure patients who do not need to be in the hospital are kept out of clinics as part of efforts to limit their exposure to Covid-19.
“During April, the National Diabetes Center at Hamad General Hospital cared for patients during more than 8,200 consultations, and over 90% of that care was provided virtually. We have put in place several measures that keep patients out of clinical spaces while still providing them access to specialist care. We have moved the majority of our regular outpatient appointments to telemedicine appointments and we have implemented a number of new services, including a medication and medical equipment and supplies home delivery service,” said Dr Mahmoud Zirie, senior consultant and head of the Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department at HMC.
“And for patients who must come to the hospital, we have taken steps to help limit their exposure by directing them to clinics that are not located in our five designated Covid-19 treatment facilities. While we don't want patients who are not acutely ill to come to the hospital, we also don’t want diabetics who require specialist care to go without that care because they are afraid of being exposed to Covid-19,” added Dr Zirie.
Professor Abou-Samra says in April the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), HMC and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) launched an outreach programme to ensure individuals living with diabetes are not only continuing to receive the care needed to manage their condition but are also being proactively treated.
“The ‘Covid-19 and Diabetes’ programme was implemented as part of a prevention strategy to minimise the risk of severe Covid-19 illness among our diabetic population. The health sector has worked together to identify those patients who are most at risk for diabetic complications and treatment teams consisting of physicians and diabetes educators have contacted them to preempt potential health issues as part of efforts to keeping these patients safe and out of clinics and hospitals. Our teams have also worked together to establish Covid-19 guidance documents for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics,” said Professor Abou-Samra.
Professor Abou-Samra says social distancing is critical in managing the spread of Covid-19, particularly for diabetic patients who are at high risk for serious complications if they contract the virus, underscoring the importance of new measures that are allowing patients to access routine and specialist diabetes care from home.
“The whole health sector is working together to provide interventions to improve self-management for people living with diabetes. I encourage diabetic patients to continue being proactive with their care and to strictly follow infection prevention measures. Continue talking to your healthcare team and call the diabetes hotline if you have any questions or concerns,” said Professor Abou-Samra.
The diabetes hotline can be accessed by calling 16099 (select option 4). This phone-based emergency service is available seven days a week from 7am to 10pm to provide individuals with all types of diabetes, as well as their relatives or caregivers, with medical advice related to diabetes and Covid-19.
For more information about diabetes and to access the Covid-19 and Diabetes Guidelines (Type 1 and Type 2), one can visit http://diabetes.hamad.qa.
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