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Juvenile diabetics left out in blind spots of school healthcareMinistry moves to allow school nurses to administer medication to student patients
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2017.04.20 19:50
  • Updated 2017.04.20 20:07
  • comments 0

An increasing number of young students are suffering from Type 1 diabetes, but health environments at schools are extremely inadequate. Most schools have neither places to get insulin shots nor persons to administer medications on students, forcing patients to take care of themselves.

The number of under-18 Type 1 diabetics increased 31 percent over nine years, from 4,076 in 2006 to 5,337 in 2015, according to the National Health Insurance Corp. The Korean Diabetes Association estimates about 30 percent of youth diabetics administer their insulin shots or check blood sugar.

(Source : National Health Insurance Service)

Type 1 diabetes patients cannot produce insulin in their bodies so that they must get insulin shot before meals to absorb carbohydrates. However, the law prohibits homeroom teachers and even health teachers with nurse licenses from administering medications, keeping them from helping student diabetics.

That explains why these students must give themselves insulin shots and check their blood sugar during school hours. Conscious of other students’ eyes, these patients mostly use toilettes and other places they can be alone to self-administer insulin shots. This means they have a high chance of being by themselves during emergency situations like shocks from low blood pressure.

As these problems came to surface, the Ministry of Health and Welfare allowed health teachers to administer medication, on condition that they follow methods and dosages prescribed by doctors and obtain parents’ agreement.

The ministry also said “yes” to the request for authoritative interpretation from Rep. Rho Woong-rae of the opposition Democratic Party, who had asked whether health teachers could administer insulin shots to diabetic students at school according to school health regulations.

“Because insulin shots can be self-injected in general, ordinary people can deliver them after receiving appropriate lessons,” the ministry said. “Accordingly, school nurses can administer insulin shots to type 1 diabetes students, following doctors’ directions, and with guardians’ agreements.”

Critics say, however, although the ministry has given the green light to health teachers’ giving insulin shots to student patients, there remains limitation to solving school healthcare problems. This is because nearly a third of elementary, middle and high schools had no health instructors or school nurses as of 2016. At schools in provinces dotted with remote islands, such as South Jeolla, Jeju, and South Chungcheong, only one in every two schools have health instructors.

They also point out the situations in which health teachers should take legal responsibility for possible problems, including side effects, as a result of instructor-administered insulin shots.


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