Sunday 22 September 2019

Obese patients waiting up to five years for weight loss surgery as related illnesses rise

Stock photo
Stock photo

Priscilla Lynch

Fewer than 100 weight loss (bariatric) operations are being carried out on obese patients in our public hospitals annually, when this number should be around 1,500 annually, a medical meeting in Dublin heard last week.

A number of speakers at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) 2018 Annual Winter Meeting pointed out that Ireland is on track to become one of the fattest nations in the world if current obesity trends continue, with 39pc of Irish adults being overweight and 18pc obese.

Obesity is leading to huge increases in diabetes, cancer and liver-related diseases, putting increased pressure on our health services.

Bariatric surgery, including gastric banding or bypass, is only available publicly in Galway or Dublin, where the waiting lists are as long as four to five years.

Chris Collins, Consultant General and Upper GI surgeon in Galway University Hospital, told the ISG meeting that current waiting times for bariatric surgery for obese patients were unacceptable, and the fewer than 100 surgeries a year being provided in the public system came nowhere near meeting growing demand.

He said that given our current waiting lists and population size, Ireland should be carrying out 1,500 such surgeries a year in our public hospitals but the capacity and beds to do this are not available.

However, following the work of the Taskforce on Obesity and the appointment of obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea, of RTE Operation Transformation fame, to the role of HSE Obesity lead, dedicated funding for obesity services is due to be made available by the HSE next year.

This should lead to bariatric surgery being rolled out in other regions, and an increase in the number of operations being carried out to 150 next year, and up to 750 annually within the next five years, Mr Collins told the Sunday Independent.

The ISG Meeting also heard how hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver disease and cancers soared over a 10-year period.

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)-related hospital admissions in Ireland increased by 23pc between 2006-2016, while hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer)-related admissions increased by 300pc in the same period, research presented at the ISG meeting showed.

Researchers from the National Liver Transplant Unit in St Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, examined HSE data on ALD admissions between 2006-2016 in all acute public hospitals across Ireland.

In total, 3,532 discharges for patients with ALD were recorded during the 10-year period. Over half (57pc) of these patients had advanced liver damage (cirrhosis), and about one in 10 of these patients died in hospital.

Less than a third (30pc) of those discharged were under the care of an appropriate specialist (gastroenterologist) upon leaving hospital.

In 2016, 40,482 public hospital bed days across Ireland were taken up by patients with ALD.

Sunday Independent

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