By Orville Williams
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact its ability to cater to members, the Antigua and Barbuda Diabetes Association also continues to yearn for a permanent place to call home.
The association has been calling for intervention at some level – whether public or private sector – to turn this desire into a reality, and the repeated calls escalated last year when the public health protocols effected by the pandemic forced the association to take its information and regular meeting sessions online.
Prior to the pandemic, these sessions were being held at temporary locations, often via collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS). Similarly, screening initiatives – which continue at intervals throughout each year – have had to be done at various locations through the same collaboration.
President of the association, Juanita James, says a permanent space could significantly boost their efforts to assist persons living with diabetes through screening and treatment, noting too the psychological effect it could have on persons who may consider it “somewhere they can always go if they need help”.
The association recently received a donation of blood glucose meters and diabetic testing strips from a company in Barbados and those are being utilised among some of their members who are not eligible to acquire the equipment from the MBS, due to the fact they are not on insulin.
In cases like this, James says, a permanent space would certainly come in handy.
“When you have equipment or other material that you could share with the public, the question becomes, where do they find you?
“It would definitely help. Even if we’re only open for a couple of days each week, people would at least know we are there [for example] on a Wednesday and Thursday, within certain hours.”
While they have been lobbying for assistance in identifying and securing a space, there has been no significant progress yet. James insists though, that they will not give up.
She disclosed that an effort has been made to secure a meeting with the Health Minister to discuss this and other related matters, but acknowledged that those talks may take some time given the focus that must be placed on the Covid-19 situation.
In the meantime, she says they continue to engage with their members as best as possible, in a bid to keep everyone optimistic about the future and provide the support they need to keep dealing with the illness.
“We have continued to meet every month via Zoom and this month we had a beach outing – following the protocols [of course] – where we just spread ourselves out and relaxed together. Some people swam, some walked along the shore and some just sat and stretched their legs out.
“The socialising cannot stop 100 percent. Yes, you have to do it safely, but mentally, people are tired and we had to find a way for everyone to get out.”
The association held a screening event last June and is gearing up for the acknowledgement of World Diabetes Day later in November.