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Funding challenge for new diabetes centre

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A charity tackling one of the island's most prevalent chronic illnesses has appealed for funding, even as it prepares to open a badly needed new treatment centre in Hamilton.

Next week, the Bermuda Diabetes Association celebrates with a roof-wetting ceremony at its Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre on the corner of Dundonald Street and Princess Street.

“This will make a huge difference for us,” Debbie Jones, the executive director, said. “Diabetes, unfortunately, is a growing problem. A study in 1995 showed 11 per cent of the population had it. Now you could say it's anything from 14 to 20 per cent.”

Lifestyle factors, especially poor diet and sugar consumption, are the leading causes for type 2 diabetes.

The new centre, a repurposed home built of Bermuda stone purchased from the Hill family, will give the group 2,000 square feet for its pharmacy, education rooms and offices.

Ms Jones called the facility “a one-stop shop — a hub” to accommodate therapy sessions, education, and even healthy cooking classes in its kitchen.

But the old building, purchased at the end of 2017, came with hidden roof damage, requiring a replacement.

Ms Jones added: “We found other surprises like an old tank nobody knew about, and a passageway to the property next door that had to be blocked.

“It's one of the oldest houses in this area. So now we are hoping for a last and final push for more funding.”

The association has a target of roughly $500,000 to raise.

Pedro Madeiros, the head of Paradise Contracting whose own family have been affected by diabetes, said the centre was hoped to be completed by the end of November.

Bermuda has advantages in the fight against diabetes: insulin, the hormone required by diabetes patients to regulate their body's sugar levels, is obtained by the association directly from the manufacturers in Canada, cutting out the intermediaries that have raised prices in countries such as the United States.

Ms Jones said: “Our fee is minimal. It's nothing compared to retail. And for patients that can't afford it, we have a client-assisted programme to help pay for it.”

However, Bermuda's rate of diabetes has risen. Last month, a study by the Bermuda Hospitals Board revealed that one in three patients at the hospital had the illness.

“Women should have no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day, and for men it's nine,” Ms Jones said. “That means no drinking soda, at all.

“If we could change that as a first, people would feel better right away. Another message is simply that people need to move more.”

She said the group was optimistic that simply encouraging patients to walk, such as strolling from the centre to Victoria Park and back, would improve health.

The roof-wetting ceremony on September 20 marks a celebration, even though repairs to the same roof cost an unexpected $200,000 extra.

Greg Vandermade, the charity's treasurer, told The Royal Gazette: “For us to take this dream to the next level, we need loving, caring people in Bermuda and generous companies to help us fulfil it. We need this centre. Every year the problem gets bigger and bigger, while our insurance and healthcare costs keep rising.”

The 38-year-old reinsurance executive, originally from Canada, developed inherited type 1 diabetes at age 10, six months after the death of his father.

Mr Vandermade said: “Both my parents are type 1 diabetics. It was inevitable. I've been on insulin every day since.”

With the help of his doctor, Annabel Fountain, he has developed a schedule for administering his daily insulin.

He said: “With diabetes, there's never one day the same.”

Mr Vandermade added: “You wonder why when you see people walking down the street eating a load of carbs and washing it down with fast-acting sugar. If I could not have this disease, I'd love to take a day off.

“My advice is to take time to make healthy choices. It doesn't take that much extra time. Diabetes hasn't slowed me down or stopped me doing anything I wanted to do. I have run in five May 24 marathons and travelled the world. It can be done.”

To help the Bermuda Diabetes Association, donations can be made to Butterfield account number 20006060842320100. To learn more about the group, e-mail or call the association's office at 297-8427

On the frontline: Bermuda Diabetes Association executive director Debbie Jones in front of the organisation's new Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre in Hamilton. The new centre will give the group 2,000 sq ft for its pharmacy, education rooms and offices (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Debbie Jones (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Centre for Bda Diabetes Association (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Debbie Jones (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Debbie Jones (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 12, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 12, 2019 at 7:47 am)

Funding challenge for new diabetes centre

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