Diabetes Mellitus, or diabetes as is more commonly known, is a chronic lifelong condition that affects the levels of glucose in the blood. The deficiency in the production of insulin by the pancreas or insulin ineffectiveness results in increased concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. The prolonged high levels of glucose result in damage to the blood vessels, nerves and various organs of the body. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, whilst type 2 diabetes arises because the body is unable to properly utilize the insulin it produces. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide. Worldwide there are approximately 150 million people who have diabetes. In Malta, around 45,000 patients are known to be diabetic.

When patients develop diabetes they usually complain of severe thirst, passing urine very often, tiredness, and weight loss. Unfortunately, especially in the initial stages of type 2 diabetes, the symptoms may be less marked, and some patients may end up being diagnosed with the condition only several years after its onset. This issue is of great concern to the medical community as untreated diabetes can lead to several complications. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the patient is controlled, thus preventing complications. Complications may range from complications to the heart, to the eyes that may eventually cause blindness and visual disability, kidney failure, strokes, diabetic neuropathy where nerves are affected, frequent infections, and foot problems. Foot complications are one of the costliest complications of diabetes and occur as a result of the damage that occurs to blood vessels and nerves due to persistent high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Diabetics may eventually end up with ulcers and subsequent limb amputations. In fact, diabetes is the most common reason for non-traumatic amputations of the lower limb.
VGH has a holistic vision for healthcare delivery. We aim to put patients in control of their own health by empowering them to be able to take the appropriate decisions together with the highly skilled healthcare professionals. We put a lot of emphasis on patient education and support.

Prevention is better than cure and our healthcare professionals are at the forefront to provide the necessary advice to patients so as to prevent the onset of diabetes as much as possible. Educational campaigns are also part of our strategy so that the general population is aware of the early signs and symptoms of diabetes in order for patients to seek early medical advice. VGH is also investing heavily in equipping its hospitals with the latest technology in order to provide high level care to patients who need to have the appropriate investigations for their proper diabetes care. The ultimate aim is that patients have a timely accessible high-quality service so that complications do not arise.
VGH’s aim is that amputations are a rare occurrence but in the unfortunate event that patients need to have this intervention, we are also at the forefront to provide the appropriate care to our patients so that they return as early as possible to their best of health. In fact, as from last August, VGH has partnered with Medical Center O&P, a leading prosthetics company serving amputees who seek to maximize their potential and minimize the complications associated with wearing a prosthesis.

The current service in Malta has so far been mainly administered by a single local orthotics and prosthetics specialist together with a group of technicians and allied health professionals and was supported through a contracted third party, which provided artificial limbs. This service was mainly given at 6-week intervals. The local team in charge of this service have for a long time been working to improve the service offering for their patients and we are happy that now our local professionals, can work alongside MCOPi staff to symbiotically grow the service together.

Diabetic patients, as highlighted before, are unfortunately also at an increased risk of suffering stroke. The newly inaugurated stroke unit is also part of the rehabilitative services that VGH is providing to its stroke patients.
VGH will continue to work on this holistic vision to educate the general population on the prevention as much as possible of diabetes, empower patients to be involved in their care plan, and provide the appropriate high-quality diabetic care and rehabilitation in a timely manner.