I attended the ADS/ADEA conference last week in Sydney just for one day to present at a technology and healthcare symposium (more on that soon).

It was one of those crazy days that started long before the sun rose. I can’t be chipper at 6.30am as my travel companion realised as he greeted me in a very cheery manner only to be met with a steely gaze and pronouncement of ‘I’m yet to have coffee’. It sounded like a threat!

After my presentation, I made the most of a couple of hours at the conference and caught up with as many people as possible. I’d arranged about eight ‘we’ll chat at the conference’ meetings and ended up seeing four people.

I only made it to one session apart from my Symposium and it was a debate.

I love a bit of debating. Those who know me won’t be surprised to know that I was in the debating team when I was at school (Renza nerd fact #3569). But the topic at the conference made me a little uncomfortable and that was before anyone even opened their mouths!

‘It’s our fault if our patients’ HbA1cs are too high’

I don’t like the word ‘fault’. Blaming people for being outside their diabetes targets rarely does anyone any good. As the people living with diabetes, we don’t like to be blamed or told off if we’re not meeting targets, so blaming our HCPs doesn’t make much sense to me either.

Nonetheless, I went along to see what was said.

First up for the affirmative – Cheryl Steele. Now, as far as I’m concerned, Cheryl Steele is wonderful. She was one of the first people I saw present about diabetes when I was first diagnosed with diabetes and she has inspired me ever since. She is a favourite speaker of the T1 Team at DA-Vic, not only because she does a brilliant presentation EVERY SINGLE TIME, but also because of her tell-it-like-it-is manner. And the fact that she is living with type 1 makes her even more awesome!  She changed hats a few times yesterday whilst giving her presentation –sometimes speaking as a CDNE and other times as a PWD. And the confusion about anagrams was one of her points.

The affirmative team’s argument was that until HCPs stopped moving the goal posts, provided better tools for management and stopped disagreeing on what they were telling people with diabetes, then yes, they had to consider taking the blame for their patients higher than target BGLs.

The negative said there was no way that HCPs could be blamed – and were at great pains to point out that they weren’t blaming the PWD. Except there were times that they came pretty damn close – as evidenced by this tweet:

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I felt a little uncomfortable at times during the debate. Although it was very tongue in cheek and there was great spirit throughout the session, there were moments that I wondered just how much truth was in the silliness.  It is a little like the ‘oh-we’re-just-joking’ comments about patients lying about filling in BGL record books.

I know that by and large the HCPs in the room are there for the PWD (I was sitting next to my endo and I know that’s definitely the case with her), but I do get a little concerned at the lack of understanding about what life with diabetes is all about when the negative team thought that dealing with a life-long chronic health condition is kinda like taking a course of antibiotics.

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Was I being a little too sensitive? Possibly. Am I expecting HCPs to get it wrong? Again, possibly. But as a consumer advocate, I am on heightened alert to make sure that there is compassion, understanding and respect being directed towards PWD at all times. I’m not sure that was necessarily the case throughout the debate last week.

Next time, I’d love to see a debate between HCPs and PWD. Now THAT would be worth paying money to see!

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