Insulin service ceases

Diabetic children needing insulin pump therapy may need to travel outside the Latrobe Valley to receive the specialist treatment.

Latrobe Regional Hospital has confirmed it is without a paediatrician trained in insulin pump therapy, after private paediatrician Dr Joseph Tam today closed his local practice.

The treatment for type 1 diabetes involves the use of a pump, connected through an injection into the stomach, to deliver precise doses of rapid-acting insulin 24 hours a day, minimising the need of frequent injections.

LRH chief medical officer Dr Simon Fraser said the hospital’s paediatricians were supported by paediatric endocrinologists – hormone specialists – from Melbourne in the management of diabetes.

However the hospital’s paediatricians were unable to deliver insulin pump therapy as it was a highly specialised skill.

“It’s unfortunate Dr Tam’s patients may have to travel outside the Latrobe Valley to access this specialised service,” Dr Fraser said.

Dr Tam’s departure has come as a blow to parents of children needing the treatment. Data from the National Diabetes Services Scheme reveals 0.1 per cent of Latrobe Valley children aged between zero and nine years old have diabetes requiring some form of treatment.

One mother, whose daughter is about to receive the insulin pump therapy, told The Express hospital visits of up to a week would uproot families and bring pressure during an already emotional time. She said the Valley “desperately” needed a clinic specialising in all types of diabetes, with Gippsland having one of the highest rates of diabetes in the state.

An LRH spokesperson said there were no imminent plans by the hospital to introduce insulin pump therapy.

Dr Tam did not respond to calls from The Express.