Parents urge YG to cover high tech diabetes monitor

Parents of kids with Type 1 diabetes are asking the Yukon government to pay for equipment they say will improve their children’s lives.

Parents of kids with Type 1 diabetes are asking the Yukon government to pay for equipment they say will improve their children’s lives.

Rachel Hrebien and Sharon Nehring-Willson said the Yukon government refused to cover the costs of continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMS) for their children.

Nehring-Willson is the mother of Sawyer, 2, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 16 months old.

Sawyer can’t always express when his blood sugar levels are too high or too low, Nehring-Willson said, hence the need for the monitoring system.

Type 1 diabetes patients must regularly check their blood sugar level throughout the day and inject insulin.

That’s where continuous glucose monitoring systems, also called Dexcoms, come in. A sensor inserted in the skin sends blood sugar levels to a receiver, which parents can monitor.

But the equipment doesn’t come cheap: a complete unit costs around $1,900. The sensor has to be replaced every seven to 12 days, bringing annual costs to over $5,000.

Hrebien got the CGMS after her daughter Emersyn passed out at school because her blood sugar levels dropped too low.

“Since she had it on, we caught so many lows,” she said. “It’s one of those things we’re very thankful for.

“Without the Dexcom, we’re not seeing the trends, not seeing the lows.”

But even with the CGMS the parents still have a lot of work to do.

Hrebien said she had to train school staff, and has to bring additional insulin shots to school.

Nehring-Willson said she and her partner can afford the equipment because of their jobs, but questions the government’s decision not to fund it.

“The fact they won’t approve it is completely illogical,” she said.

The equipment is cheaper than having to medevac patients to Vancouver, she said. She estimates the cost of testing strips and related equipment to be over $15 per day for her son.

“Moving to this type of equipment in the long run is going to be cheaper,” she said.

A doctor at B.C. Children’s Hospital recommended the equipment, signing a “certificate of medical necessity” for Sawyer.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes will have health issues in the long run if their blood sugar level isn’t closely monitored and kept in line.

High blood sugar levels mean the potential for eyesight issues, even loss of limbs and organs such as kidneys. Lower blood sugar, on the other hand, can lead to loss of consciousness, even convulsions.

“It doesn’t cure diabetes. It’s not absolutely necessary but very helpful,” said Constantin Polychronakos, a paediatric endocrinologist and professor at McGill University.

He has been lobbying the Quebec government for years to cover the cost of CGMS when prescribed by a specialist.

He called the equipment a “good investment for the government” because of the health complications it can prevent.

“But governments don’t think like this,” he said.

Without CGMS, patients don’t always know how their blood sugar levels vary. And injecting insulin is always a “guessing game,” Polychronakos said.

He said CGMS paired with glucose pumps, which deliver insulin at lower, more regular doses, will be able to fully replicate what the pancreas is supposed to do.

The Yukon Department of Health and Social Services told the News that a working group — comprised of drug program representatives, an independent pharmacist and an independent doctor — decides which special treatments the health department should cover.

It looks at at drug reviews professional organizations published and what other jurisdictions cover. In this case no jurisdiction in Canada cover the costs of CGMS. The federal government doesn’t cover it either under the non insured health benefits.

The working group found “there has been no demonstrated improved outcome and/or management of diabetes for users of the CGMS,” spokesperson Pat Livingtold the News in an email. “They do not have better sugar control or improve disease management when compared to people using glucose testing strips.”

Several requests to cover the costs of CGMS have been made in the past years, Living said, but none has been approved.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better explain the process the health department uses to determine whether to cover the use of new drugs or medical equipment. It has also been updated to reflect that the findings are those of the working group members, not the department spokesperson.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Medical lab technologist Angela Jantz receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Whitehorse hospital on Jan. 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Online booking system for Moderna vaccine opens as mobile teams prepare to visit communities

“The goal is to protect everyone and stop the spread of COVID-19”


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 15, 2021

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton won’t be runing for re-election. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mayo-Tatchun MLA won’t run for re-election

Liberal MLA Don Hutton won’t be running for re-election. A former wildland… Continue reading

Large quantities of a substance believed to be cocaine, a large amount of cash, several cells phones and a vehicle were all seized after RCMP searched a Whistle Bend home on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
Seven arrested after drug trafficking search

RCMP seized drugs, money from Whistle Bend residence on Jan. 6

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read