Horizon nurse excited to see changes to insulin pump coverage

Thanks in part to the passion of a Horizon registered nurse (RN), more New Brunswickers have coverage of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors through the New Brunswick Insulin Pump Program (NBIPP).

Marilyn Heighton has been working as a nurse for 33 years. For the past 16 years, she’s cared for patients with diabetes. Her role as an Insulin Pump Clinical Specialist has given her the opportunity to be closely involved with both her patients in New Brunswick and the NBIPP.

During the pandemic, Marilyn decided to go back to school to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. One of her assignments was to look at policies surrounding community health and propose changes.

“I thought, why not do something I know about and try to make an impact?” said Marilyn. “So, I focused on insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring, looking at what was happening in New Brunswick compared to the rest of the provinces in Canada.”

Insulin pumps provide continuous insulin for those living with Type-1 diabetes and Type-2 diabetes who require intensive insulin therapy. Their device alerts them when they face dangerous highs or lows, helps them better manage their diabetes and prevents severe crises and hospitalizations. Continuous glucose monitors help monitor glucose levels so insulin pumps can automatically adjust the insulin levels provided.

The government previously covered insulin pumps only for those 25 and under who didn’t have medical insurance and who met the medical criteria.

Recently, they announced changes to the program, including removing the age limit and changing the levels of financial coverage. During her studies, Marilyn compared NB’s coverage to other provinces.

This included creating a presentation encouraging the province to change its coverage, so when she saw the announcement, she was very excited.

“I had gone to my sister Kathy Bockus, who is an MLA and pitched the idea,” said Marilyn. “That’s when I learned it was something the government was looking into, but I rallied to help make sure it happened. This is something I’m very passionate about and wanted to see through to the end.”

On July 31, the Department of Health announced the changes to the program, which will roll out over the coming months. “When I heard the good news, I was so excited for my patients. Advocating for them has always been my goal, especially throughout this project,” said Marilyn. “I called a few of my patients who were getting close to the age cap and weren’t sure how they were going to afford their treatment going forward. When I told them the good news, they were in tears, and so was I.”