KARACHI: If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you might as well start ringing up cardiologists, foot specialists and ophthalmologists in addition to diabetes experts – unless you live in Karachi. Diabetics in the city can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the array of complications associated with the condition can be treated under one roof at the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology.
The institute was established as a one-room unit in 1996 for advancing diabetes research, education and patient care. It has grown into a facility that caters to the various needs of diabetic patients and has a 25 bed in-patient service department with a High Dependency Unit to treat emergency cases.
Rukhsana, a 52-year-old patient, learnt about the institute from the emergency department of Liaquat National Hospital, which she visited when her sugar levels shot up. Because of her age and family history, doctors advised her to get a complete diabetes check-up. Her subsequent visit to the institute, which is located in Nazimabad, proved fruitful. She got the results of all her tests, a diet plan, a check-up of her foot and eye as well as a prescription in just three hours.
The concept of a “Diabetes Care Team” has worked well for the centre, where the out-patient department runs under the innovative concept of collaborative services. Under this system, the consultants offer coordinated advice and this is backed up by prompt laboratory support services. Patients get individualised diet plans and comprehensive education on self-care and management. There is also a 24-hour telephonic advisory service and public awareness programmes are organised regularly.
Domiciliary podiatry (foot care at home) services are available at the centre and in order to extend this to the rest of the country, the Working Group on Diabetic Foot was founded in 2006, said Dr M Zafar Iqbal Abbasi, the project manager of the centre of education at the institute. A project titled ‘Peripheral Diabetes Centres’ has also been started under which eight centres have been established in different areas of Karachi.
Over the years, the institute has also succeeded in expanding its services to the rest of Sindh for the management of type-1 diabetes. This has been done through the ‘Insulin My Life’ project, which is being run in 34 centres, and the National Diabetes and Diabetic Foot Programme. Both projects are supported by the World Diabetes Foundation.
The institute is also educating health professionals and offering courses on the condition. It is also offering diplomas in Diabetology and diabetic education for paramedics, dieticians and physiotherapists. The institute got the status of International Diabetes Federation in 2008 and is the only one in the country to have attained the achievement so far. It will hold this status till 2013.
However, this is not enough, says Prof. Basit. “Our ultimate goal is to add services for all chronic complications.” Diabetes education, foot complications and children suffering from the condition are priority areas in Pakistan. According to him, there are 6.9 million patients in Pakistan and this number will grow to 11.4 million by 2030. This is why the institute has been focusing on research since 1999, he said. It is currently conducting research studies on genetics with other international diabetic associations. Other research includes population-specific studies on fasting for diabetic patients and obesity.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.