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AustraliaPeople dying waiting for obesity surgery, doctors say, amid calls for greater public access

02:26  12 july  2019
02:26  12 july  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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For years Calum Sanderson struggled to leave the house as he battled morbid obesity that felt unbeatable, but he was knocked back for lap-band surgery because he was deemed not sick enough.

doctors say , amid calls for greater public access - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting house as he battled morbid obesity that felt unbeatable, but he was knocked back for lap-band surgery " Obesity I think is quite savage … one of the things about people who are obese is they appear to be

People dying waiting for obesity surgery, doctors say, amid calls for greater public access© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Portrait of Calum Sanderson says lap-band surgery has turned his life around. (ABC News: Brian Tegg)

For years Calum Sanderson struggled to leave the house as he battled morbid obesity that felt "unbeatable".

People dying waiting for obesity surgery, doctors say, amid calls for greater public access
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At his heaviest, the 28-year-old weighed 210 kilograms.

"It's been completely debilitating, it's affected my mental state, it's affected my whole life," Mr Sanderson, who lives in Port Huon in Tasmania's south, said.

"At the worst I'd need to sit down after walking for a few minutes, I'd have to sit down to do the dishes."

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For years Calum Sanderson struggled to leave the house as he battled morbid obesity that felt unbeatable, but he was knocked back for lap-band surgery because he was deemed not sick enough.

Doctors running 68 A&E departments tell PM patients are dying prematurely because staff are too busy to treat them. They include Frimley health trust in Surrey, which May visited last week in an attempt to reassure the public that the NHS was coping well this winter.

When Mr Sanderson did venture out, he suffered crippling anxiety to the point he feared even going to check the mail.

"I've had a waterbomb thrown at me, there's been the insults, the stares, people looking down their nose at me," he said.

"Unfortunately I've been led to believe I'm lesser than dirt pretty much."

In May this year, he had publicly funded lap-band surgery.

He said it had been "life changing".

"Already my mobility has improved immensely," he said.

"I'm able to walk and actually each day extend the walks with my dog, and that's the best start I could ask for."

'Seeing Calum suffer has been heartbreaking'

Accessing the surgery involved a three-year wait, during which Mr Sanderson's concerned father Tim wrote to then-Tasmanian health minister Michael Ferguson.

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The health watchdog yesterday called for more obese people with the condition to be considered for a gastric band or bypass. But campaigners said it was wrong to offer operations costing £5,000 when the NHS faces a £30billion deficit and NICE is denying cancer patients life-extending drugs.

Dr Richard Fawcett, a senior doctor in emergency medicine at the Royal Stoke hospital in Scriven said that during his long shift the hospital had run out of beds that could be safely staffed and The trust confirmed that as a result they have had to call for extra staff and some care admissions had

"He [Calum] was knocked back because he was deemed not sick enough, he is required to develop diabetes in order to be accepted which was an incredibly bizarre position to be put in so I challenged that," Tim Sanderson said.

"Seeing Calum suffer has been heartbreaking, there are things that he has wanted to do but has not been able to do, he has suffered out in public.

"Obesity I think is quite savage … one of the things about people who are obese is they appear to be invisible, our society's not geared for fat people finding seats strong enough, clothes big enough to fit in."

People dying waiting, advocates say

The Australian and New Zealand Metabolic and Obesity Surgery Society [ANZMOSS] is lobbying the Federal Government to improve access to public bariatric surgery, saying it would save both lives and money.

"There are certainly people dying from obesity who are unable to access publicly funded surgery," the society's Dr Ahmad Aly said.

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07/11/19--16:10: People dying waiting for obesity surgery , doctors say , amid calls for greater public access . For years Calum Sanderson struggled to leave the house as he battled morbid obesity that felt "unbeatable", but he was knocked back for lap-band surgery because he "was

Not enough doctors treat obesity as a disease that requires drugs, and too few insurers offer coverage. The average American is getting shorter and fatter, and on the verge of matching the medical definition for obesity , according to a report this week from the Centers for Disease Control.

"Access is severely limited particularly in proportion to disease prevalence."

Hobart-based bariatric surgeon Stephen Wilkinson estimates 20 to 30 obese Tasmanians were dying each year waiting for surgery.

He said there had been a reduction in publicly funded lap banding at the Royal Hobart Hospital and the eligibility criteria, including being aged under 40 and having diabetes, was too strict.

"We used to be allocated 20 lap band surgeries a year, but now we wouldn't do anywhere near that — maybe 5 or 6 a year — because of more urgent cases and pressures at the Royal," Dr Wilkinson said.

"It is a frustrating and an effective denial of the reality of a severe community health problem."

A lap band operation costs about $12,000.

Dr Wilkinson said while the procedure was not suitable for everyone, it had transformed many of his patient's lives.

"They're able to play with their kids and grandchildren, often high blood pressure and diabetes disappear and they're able to engage socially and back with employment," he said.

Tasmanians getting bigger

According to Tasmania's latest State of Public Health report, 60 per cent of adults are overweight or obese and 70 per cent do not do enough exercise.

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Obesity researcher Alison Venn from the Menzies Research Institute estimates more than 20,000 Tasmanians would be eligible for bariatric surgery.

"Clearly it would not be possible for the health system to fund everyone who might choose or be eligible for bariatric surgery because the numbers are so great, but certainly there's a strong case for funding more that's available," Professor Venn said.

"Wider society has created an environment where obesity is becoming more and more common and wider society is paying the price.

"I don't think we can escape it by putting it all back to individuals and saying they should just get on a diet and stick to it."

A Tasmanian Health Service [THS] spokesperson said the THS was not in a position to determine whether a patient's cause of death was directly related to obesity or other co-existing conditions.

The spokesman said elective surgery priorities were determined by clinical leaders and as of this month there were 19 patients on the Royal's lap-banding waiting list, with an average wait of six months.

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