Officials from the Health and Human Services departments won approval from lawmakers on Wednesday for the creation of a registry to track Virgin Islanders suffering from kidney disease and diabetes.
Proponents of Bill No. 35-0207 told the 35th Legislature Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services they hope data obtained from the registry will help improve patient outcomes.
Diabetes is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the Virgin Islands. Testifiers told committee members that showing patients how to better manage diabetes may also reduce incidents of end-stage kidney disease.
Health Committee Chairman Sen. Ray Fonseca introduced the measure as the sponsor of the bill. He urged his colleagues to support 35-0207 and approve $250,000 to fund its creation.
“In the Virgin Islands there are 219 hemodialysis kidney patients, and diabetes is the main cause of kidney failure,” Fonseca said. Creating the diabetes and kidney disease registry will help Health officials “monitor, track, save and extend the lives of all of the Virgin Islanders that are currently suffering from kidney failure in addition to the thousands of Virgin Islanders who have diabetes and prediabetes.”
If approved by the full Senate and signed into law, the diabetes registry would join the Health Department’s cancer registry, established in 2016.
During a round of questioning by committee members, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion was asked how the funds would be used. “A lot of the funding would go to the IT portion, as well as the staffing,” she said.
Lawmakers commenting on the bill signaled their support. “I believe in registries, they’re very important,” said Sen. Diane Capehart.
Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory suggested that data gleaned from the registry might also provide insights into childhood diabetes. Frett-Gregory asked testifier Dr. Tai Hunte Ceasar if Health was seeing more cases of childhood diabetes in the territory.
Ceasar, the department’s medical director, said yes.
Consideration of the bill at the Wednesday hearing led to an affirmative vote with a recommendation to send 35-0207 to the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance for further consideration.