Diabetes WA is urging all Western Australians living with diabetes not to skip their routine blood tests in the wake of alarming figures that show a 40 per cent drop in pathology testing over the past month.
The urgent call to action comes after The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia recently stated that the pathology sector has experienced a drastic drop in testing, with more than 60,000 Australians pulling out of important blood tests daily amid fears of contracting COVID-19.
Roleystone man Gregg Pearce was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes more than 30 years ago and has weekly blood tests to check his kidney function, infection levels and blood glucose levels.
And while the 65-year-old has placed himself into self-isolation and now has many of his health appointments done via phone or video conferencing, he still leaves the house to get his routine blood tests.
“If I don’t have these blood tests, I don’t know whether my infection levels are down or whether my kidney is acting up,” he said.
“It’s a catch 22 situation – the likelihood of me getting the COVID-19 virus is less than me getting kidney failure and infections.
“You’ve got to weigh up which one is the most important. I’ve got to have it done, there’s no two ways about it.”
Routine blood tests for people living with diabetes include checking HbA1c levels, which looks at average of blood glucose levels over a three-month period and can provide an insight into any issues that may be there. This testing is done every three to six months.
Other important annual blood tests include checking cholesterol levels and kidney function, which could pinpoint any health complications emerging.
Diabetes WA holds concerns for people who are choosing to cancel or delay their HbA1c blood test and other health checks.
While telehealth is becoming a more viable alternative to face-to-face appointments for people living with chronic conditions like diabetes, Diabetes WA General Manager of Health Services Deborah Schofield said it is vital that people living with diabetes continue getting their routine blood tests.
“My message to people living with diabetes is to keep having your regular diabetes health checks” she said.
“See your GP about your diabetes health checks, such as HbA1c and cholesterol. Many GPs are offering appointments through telehealth now so you don’t need to attend the clinic in person.”
For people who may have fears about contracting the virus when visiting a blood collection centre, Mrs Schofield reassures them that they are in safe hands.
“The blood collection centres are separate to the COVID-19 testing clinics and they have very high safety and hygiene standards and social distancing is being observed,” she said.
“It’s going to be better for your overall health if you keep a check on your diabetes to help you fight off any potential illness.”
Mrs Schofield also pointed out the services and support available from Diabetes WA.
“We’re here to support people with diabetes in any way we can through our free Diabetes Helpline and Telehealth Service, from the comfort of your home” she said.
“We have a team of credentialled diabetes educators who are passionate about providing diabetes support to you – from answering a simple concern that’s been on your mind, through to offering a full appointment to help with your clinical care.
“If you’re having problems connecting with other health services important for your diabetes care, we can help with this as well.”
For diabetes information and support, people can call the Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service on 1300 001 880 from 8:30am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.