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Over €1 million spent last year on surgeries for morbidly obese people

Ireland is on course to become the fattest nation in Europe within 10 years.

THE COST OF surgeries carried out in public hospitals for the treatment of the morbidly obese increased by 50% to more than €1 million last year, according to new figures.

A total of 112 patients underwent procedures to surgically limit their food intake and reduce their weight at a cost of €1,029,908 during 2016.

The number of people undergoing such operations each year has more than doubled since 2010 as Ireland’s obesity crisis has worsened.

The country is now on course to become the fattest nation in Europe within the next decade, according to the WHO.

During the past eight years, more than €5.2 million has been spent on bariatric surgery – the term covering various types of procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity – for 637 patients in public hospitals.

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 surgeries performed include gastric bypass procedures, which redirect food away from some parts of the stomach and small intestine so that the body absorbs fewer calories.

They also include gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity so that the patient feels full after eating a small amount of food.

Bariatric procedures are carried out almost exclusively in two public hospitals: St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, and University Hospital Galway (UHG). Some services are also provided at South Infirmary in Cork.

A spokesperson for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said that surgical interventions for morbid obesity are performed on the basis of a clinical diagnosis by a medical consultant.

“While a definite clinical need exists for those with chronic obesity, bariatric surgery is only required for the minority of obese patients (2% of the population),” they stated.

Patients are considered to be morbidly obese if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 40.

The number of patients undergoing procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity has increased markedly in recent years. In 2009, 55 patients availed of the procedures at a cost of €450,606.

This had increased to 98 patients and a cost of €686,812 by 2015 and, last year, a total of 112 obese patients underwent bariatric surgery in public hospitals at a cost of €1,029,908.

The figures, which were released by the HSE under the Freedom of Information Act, show that each procedure cost an average of over €9,000.

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Darragh McDonagh
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