Diabetic amputations 40 percent of all Fiji surgery

Diabetes related amputations in Fiji account for 40 per cent of all hospital operations, the Professor of Surgery at Fiji's National University says.

Eddie McCaig said half the estimated 60,000 people in Fiji with diabetes did not realise they had the illness because they ignored early signs like thirst and excessive urination.

Fiji can't afford the high cost of the amputations, as well as eye surgery and kidney failure caused by diabetes, he said.

"What I keep reminding people is that when we get to see them, we have no option but to cut the limb off," Prof McCaig said.

"When we say 'one amputation every twelve hours', about 40 per cent of the surgery done in this country is for amputation," he said.

"Let's stop playing the blame game. I think we all need to work together with the aim of getting people healthy."

Despite amputation rates improving slightly of late, Prof McCaig said he would like the government to fund better diabetes prevention and awareness campaigns.

"We must start educating our kids. It must be introduced in the curriculum and enforced and examined. People must know what to eat, how to eat," he said.

"Right now our main crop is sugar. We should be taught to eat the right things, grow the right way."

Prof McCaig said about half of Fiji's diabetics also needed eye surgery for cataracts or laser treatment for retinopathy.

Their kidneys were also affected by the disease, he said.

"We have about nine hundred cases each year who need renal dialysis. And in Fiji that's very expensive, about 35 million dollars on the kidney alone.

"We're doing a good job (but) we can't afford to do it. What we need to do is hone in on the preventive care."

Good nutrition, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are an important part of diabetes prevention, Prof McCaig said.

"We have a great rugby team that runs around the field, netballers. But as soon as they reach 30 they all swell up," he said.

"Exercise is a huge factor and no, we don't exercise enough."


Photo RNZI Caption: Professor of Surgery at Fiji's National University Eddie McCaig