Surgery for obese funded

Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
Christchurch woman Felicity Dagg

LEANER: Christchurch woman Felicity Dagg, now, believes she would not be alive if she had not had weight-loss surgery two years ago

Christchurch woman Felicity Dagg
BEFORE: Felicity Dagg before her surgery.

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Weight-loss surgery for morbidly obese patients will soon be available at Christchurch Hospital.

Bariatric surgery, which shrinks the stomach, was offered elsewhere in Christchurch for the first time last year, after the Government committed $8 million in 2010 to fund an extra 300 weight-loss operations.

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) planning and funding general manager Carolyn Gullery said the five South Island district health boards had pooled their elective funding to offer 42 surgeries to the most eligible patients, regardless of where they lived.

Canterbury had been allocated 13 surgeries in the 2011-12 year, 14 for 2012-13 and 14 for 2013-14. The surgery was available for severely obese patients aged 18 to 65, who would benefit the most from weight-loss surgery.

Gullery said previous operations performed in Christchurch had been done through a local private provider outside Christchurch, because of limited capacity caused by the February 2011 earthquake.

However, Christchurch's hospital redevelopment plan would allow for bariatric surgeries to be done on site, she said.

The $600 million plan was approved in September, and would involve building operating theatres at Christchurch Hospital, an expanded intensive care unit and emergency department, and a purpose-designed space for children.

Christchurch Hospital always had the capability to carry out the procedures in Christchurch, but the CDHB had not allocated them to it previously because the number of publicly funded operations available was very small, Gullery said.

"It was a better use of resource for those operations to be performed at Dunedin Hospital."

The Health Ministry had not indicated if more funding would become available for bariatric surgery after the $8m was spent, Gullery said.

Dr Richard Flint, one of three surgeons carrying out bariatric surgery in Christchurch, said about 200 operations were done in the city each year, and their popularity was growing.

The cost of the operation was the main obstacle to more people having the surgery, and Flint believed more operations needed to be funded publicly.

STOMACH SHRINK Bariatric surgery

GASTRIC BANDING: Involves placing a band (commonly known as a lap band) around the stomach to turn a two-litre pouch into a 30 millilitre pouch. The band can be adjusted for each person and the procedure is reversible. Lap band surgeries make up about half of the weight-loss surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $18,000 to $22,000

GASTRIC BYPASS: The stomach is stapled to create a small pouch, with the surgeon carrying out some "innovative plumbing" to bring the small intestine up to the new stomach. Gastric bypass surgery makes up 10 per cent of bariatric surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $25,000

SLEEVE GASTRECTOMY: The newest of the three surgeries available in Christchurch, but increasingly popular. In a sleeve gastrectomy, part of the stomach is removed to turn it into a narrow tube. The procedure makes up about 40 per cent of bariatric surgeries performed privately in Christchurch. Cost: $22,000

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- The Press

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