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JIS News

More than 50,000 diabetics who are registered with the National Health Fund (NHF) are to receive an additional benefit with the introduction of the Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test kits, which will be available at doctors’ offices and laboratories at a reduced rate.
The HbA1c test, considered ‘the gold standard’ measurement, is used to monitor the blood glucose levels in diabetics with the NHF Card and will assist them to improve gylcemic control and reduce the risk of diabetic complications.
Speaking with JIS News, Vice-President of Operations at NHF, Cecil White pointed out that, “the introduction of the HbA1c test is a reflection of the seriousness with which the NHF views diabetes, a catastrophic disease which affects all systems of the body and increases the risk of other chronic diseases.”Additionally, Mr. White stated that of the 300,000 NHF beneficiaries, 50,000 are diabetic and of the more than $1billion that has been spent in subsidy, $230 million was spent on diabetics thus, the importance of the NHF assisting these patients in controlling and managing their illnesses.
The HbA1c test is a simple needle prick blood test that shows the average blood glucose level over the past three months and indicates if a person’s blood glucose level is within the normal range or exceeds the normal limit. According to the Vice President, the test is presently being rolled out across the island and is expected to be available in two weeks.
All diabetics registered with the NHF will be allowed two subsidized tests per year through participating NHF providers including hospitals, laboratories, medical practitioners, and other authorized medical facilities.
Mr. White added that if beneficiaries are experiencing difficulties with their condition, the NHF may consider a third test for those individuals.
The process involves the NHF lending an instrument to providers, based on a lease agreement. The NHF will then purchase the test kits and all consumables from the local distributor, HD Hopwood at a subsidized rate.
“We are anticipating that providers will probably charge $500 per patient for the test, but with us (NHF) covering the cost of the test, which is about $300, then we expect patients to be paying around $100 to $200 for the test, depending on what the particular provider decides to charge,” informed Mr. White.
With the NHF subsidy, the cost of the test will be more affordable thereby increasing the frequency of tests done to improve the management and care of diabetics.
One hundred and ninety-nine health providers were recently trained by the NHF in the proper use and care of the test kits. The training consisted of five workshops across the island in St. Ann’s Bay, Montego Bay and Mandeville for doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians.
Mr. White said the NHF will be conducting a campaign shortly to advise and inform beneficiaries of the locations where they can access the test. In the meantime he is encouraging patients to ask their doctors about the HbA1c test. He also encouraged those persons who are currently using the Glucometers to continue doing so, as this allows them to constantly check their blood level on a daily basis and said that the two monitoring instruments go hand in hand.