$75 Million for Bariatrics in Ontario

Big news for patients with severe obesity in Ontario. As part of a $741 Million announcement for a provincial diabetes strategy, the Ontario Health Minister yesterday announced $75 Million in funding for Bariatric Centres of Excellence.

As outlined in the press release:

“Obesity is one of the main risk factors associated with diabetes. More than 50 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases in Ontario are associated with obesity. The government is improving access to bariatric surgery – a procedure that modifies the gastrointestinal tract to reduce food intake. This $75 million initiative will increase Ontario’s capacity for bariatric surgery several-fold within two years and it will continue to increase thereafter. In 2006/07 169 procedures were performed in Ontario and 485 patients were funded for surgery out of country.

Ontario will enhance capacity for bariatric surgery in the province by:

– Providing bariatric education and training to health care providers
– Expanding bariatric surgical capacity
– Establishing pre and post bariatric surgery programs that will be linked to surgical programs”

Clearly, a first sign of relief for Ontarians who have thus far had to travel South of the border or scrape together the money for private bariatric surgery.

What I particularly like about the announcement is the emphasis on training health care providers and making sure both pre- and post-surgical care is in place. As I have blogged before, obesity surgery is not just about surgery. The actual operation is only a small technical piece in a complex life-long management plan.

I am particularly pleased by the announcement, because I believe that my past efforts in Ontario, including lobbying of the Government to provide better bariatric care, may in part have led to this announcement. As some readers may know, not only have I been quite vocal about this, but I was also the Clinical Co-Chair of the Health Technology Utilization Guidelines group that was contracted by the Ontario Health Ministry to prepare recommendations for Bariatric Surgery in Ontario.

We made it clear in this guideline document that bariatric care requires an interdisciplinary team and needs to take a chronic disease management rather than an acute-care approach to dealing with this issue.

Given that there is nothing different in the magnitude of the problem or the desperate need for bariatric care between Ontario and other regions of Canada, I can only hope that this announcement will be rapidly followed by similar announcements from other provinces.

Here in Alberta, we certainly have many of the components already in place (at least in the Edmonton Region) – and of course we’d be more than happy to share our experience with our colleagues in Ontario – the sooner we can get the services in place across all of Canada, the better for everyone.

Edmonton, Alberta