Wednesday 21 March 2018

Patients up to 36 stone being treated in obesity epidemic

Professor Donal O'Shea
Professor Donal O'Shea
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Patients weighing up to 36 stone are now being treated by the experts at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown.

The service has well over 1,000 people who are struggling with obesity on its waiting list, as referrals continue to come in.

Over 12 monthly visits, he team - which is headed by Professor Donal O'Shea and includes dieticians, physiotherapists and psychologists - comes up with a plan that puts patients back in control of their weight.

"We have about 270 on the waiting list for surgery who have been through the programme, and have been deemed in need of, and suitable for surgery," said Professor O'Shea.

The gastric bypass surgery for obesity is carried out at St Vincent's University Hospital. Last year, the hospital got an allocation of funding which was intended to do 50 patients. However, just 30 gastric bypass procedures were performed. This year, there have been just two at the hospital.

Professor O'Shea described it as an "very slow rate of progress". He pointed out that elective operations are being cancelled in hospitals nationwide.

"It is very discouraging for the patients who are on the surgery list and who have been told they need to have this operation to help them manage their weight better," Dr O'Shea said.

"The kind of weight you are talking about, for some of these patients, there is an increase in risk of death if you do nothing.

"I thought we had the problem solved last year when the HSE declared the funding and the commitment to growing the surgical programme ... but now there is a problem with accessing theatres."

The Loughlinstown programme can see 250 new patients a year.

"It's the extreme end of the obesity spectrum that has exploded in the last 30 years in Ireland," Dr O'Shea said.

At the upper end of patients seeking treatment would be people weighing around 220 kilo or (34 stone) or 230 kilos (36 stone), and at that stage it is a major "chronic health issue".


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