Hospital spends up large on big patients

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013

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Wellington Hospital has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment to cater for obese patients, including larger wheel chairs, beds and commodes.

Heavier patients are becoming more common, with the latest Health Ministry survey finding 28 per cent of New Zealand adults are obese.

Capital & Coast District Health Board began offering publicly funded bariatric surgery in 2011 and had so far operated on about 60 people from the lower North Island.

Equipment for obese patients was used throughout the hospital, not just for bariatric surgery patients.

Longer instruments, ports and cameras had to be bought when the hospital began performing publicly funded bariatric surgery- which can be used in other surgery on larger patients, bariatric surgeon Kusal Wickremesekera said.

"It was bought for this surgery but equally used for other reasons because . . . 5 per cent of the population is morbidly obese."

Just over 1500 New Zealanders have had publicly funded bariatric surgery in the past seven years, including 389 people last year.

In 2010, the DHB bought 34 wheelchairs capable of carrying people weighing up to 136 kilo grams through to 303kg.

It also bought crutches with weight limits ranging from 160kg to 400kg and bariatric commodes.

The new hospital in Newtown, which opened in 2009, was fitted with beds for people up to 230kg and mattresses with a maximum weight capacity of 180kg.

Two specialised bariatric beds were also bought - one that can hold a person up to 500kg and another with a limit of 270kg.

Since 2011, new mattresses with a weight-carrying limit of 230kg had been bought to match the beds.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show the DHB has spent $361,565 since 2006 on improving its equipment pool.

Weight capacity was considered for all purchases, but weight was not the only reason they were bought, clinical and corporate service executive director Kelvin Watson said.

It had spent $194,300 on mattresses that can be used in any part of the hospital. It also spent $54,048 on new hoists and slings for the equipment pool, $30,646 on wheelchairs, $72,500 on beds and $5585 on commodes.

Both CT scanners could accommodate weights of up to 200kg and the MR scanner could lift up to about 150kg, Mr Watson said.

There was at least one occasion in the past five years when a patient could not be scanned because of their size, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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