Nearly 100 morbidly obese patients have weight loss surgery

Nearly 100 morbidly obese people underwent surgical procedures in public hospitals last year to help reduce the amount of food they can eat at a cost of more than €685,000, new figures reveal.

It represents a 20% rise in the number of patients getting of the surgery since last year, and brings the total amount spent on the procedures to €4.2m since 2009.

The costly operations are designed to encourage weight loss by surgically altering the process of digestion or by reducing the size of a patient’s stomach in order to limit food intake.

The treatment is available at two locations in Ireland: University Hospital Galway (UHG) and St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. Some services are also provided at a voluntary hospital, South Infirmary Cork.

A total of 98 patients underwent procedures for morbid obesity at these public hospitals last year, bringing the total number to have availed of the treatment to 525 since 2009.

Patients are considered to be morbidly obese if they have a body mass index higher than 40. Bariatric surgery — various procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity — is required only for a minority of patients.

The HSE said that the cost of bariatric procedures is funded both by the HSE and also by individuals who pay for the procedures through private health insurance and other means.

“In the case of public patients, procedures of this nature are carried out only for clinical, not cosmetic, reasons and on the basis of a clinical diagnosis by a medical consultant, they are not performed simply following a request from a patient,” the HSE said in a statement.

The number of bariatric surgeries taking place in public hospitals has risen significantly in recent years. In 2010, 51 operations were performed at a cost of €408,120 but this had almost doubled to 97 by 2013, when €926,756 was spent on the procedures.

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