Meet Debbie Hollahan, Director Waterloo Wellington Diabetes

A Passion for Diabetes Care

Debbie Hollahan, Director Waterloo Wellington Diabetes

Debbie Hollahan is passionate about diabetes care which she has been practicing for the past 20 years. She is currently the Director for Waterloo Wellington Diabetes, which is hosted by Langs Community Health Centre.

Debbie came to Waterloo Wellington four years ago: “When the province decided to establish a regional coordination centre in each region of the province, I really wanted to come here because I felt that there was a great opportunity to manage and coordinate diabetes care. I thought it was a very progressive region as far as diabetes care is concerned given that there were many family health teams, four community health centres and excellent diabetes educators in place.”

Debbie leads programs including the regional diabetes central intake, mentoring program, self-management program and regional-website.

The centralized intake for diabetes in Waterloo Wellington is providing better access by allowing more residents to access education and care in a timely manner. This has helped to support individuals managing diabetes and has reduced emergency department visits and shortened length of stay in hospital.

“We were the first in the province to develop a central intake system after consultations with many stakeholders in the region.  Other regions of the province are looking to us to see how we did it and we have been selected to present it at the Health Quality Ontario conference on November 20th. What diabetes central intake means is one place and one referral form for anybody to access diabetes education or diabetes specialists. Previously when we first came here, there were numerous referral forms throughout the region, long wait times, no data collection and no self-referral option.”

When the program started in November 2010, there was a 16 week wait time to get into diabetes education programs. “What we have been able to do is to shift a lot of the volume from the hospital programs out into the community where it’s much more accessible for people going for education as they don’t have to pay for parking and it offers a wellness approach as opposed to attending an acute care centre for education.”

Wait times for the program have been standardized. Depending on a person’s complexity, an urgent need patient can be seen  within 48 hours, while those less urgent are seen within  a week or 2-4 weeks’ time.

The Waterloo Wellington Diabetes Program now has over 13,000 people in its  database registry and has directed over 1,000 referrals to specialists in the region. It is funded by the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.

“We have a huge challenge ahead of us as diabetes prevalence is increasing at such a high rate. I think that we have a significant role to play in early intervention and prevention as the complications of diabetes, if not managed well, will place a huge burden on the health care system,” Debbie noted.

Asked what she would like to see in future with regards to diabetes care, she stated: “I would still like to see the program growing with more people being able to access services with enough follow-up support in place. I would also like to see similar central intake systems available across the province.”

She appreciates the role of her central intake team in achieving the many goals of the program:  “I have a great team and I could not have done it without them in particular - Kelly McCammon our Triage Nurse, Wendy Graham, our Mentor and Nicole VanGerwen our Admin Assistant.”

Prior to specializing in diabetes, Debbie was a critical care nurse, practicing in Mississauga, London, and Toronto. She graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto.

Debbie is a certified Diabetes Educator and has done numerous presentations to both public and professional bodies nationally and internationally. She has served on many advisory boards and expert panels. She has done consulting for diabetes programs, eHealth Ontario and the pharmaceutical industry and is also an instructor with The Michener Institute for the diabetes educator program. Through her work as a diabetes nurse educator, she recognizes and respects the challenges that people with diabetes face every day: “I’m always looking at better ways of doings things to improve the lives of people with diabetes.”

Debbie was born and raised in Collingwood, and has lived in Milton with her son and daughter for many years. She is an accomplished pianist: “I love playing the piano. It’s a huge stress relief for me.” She also enjoys golf, gardening, and sewing.

For more information:

Debbie Hollahan
Director Waterloo Wellington Diabetes
887 Langs Drive Unit #11, Cambridge
Telephone: 519 653 1470 Extension 302