Toronto Ramps Up Access to Bariatric Surgery

As blogged before, last year, Ontario announced $75 Million in new funding for bariatric services (as part of a $750 Million announcement for diabetes care).

In a follow-up announcement to the roll out of these funds, Ontario’s Health Minister Caplan yesterday, at a function held at the Toronto Western Hospital, declared that $12.6 million of these funds will go towards expanding the Humber River Regional Hospital centre of excellence to include five other Toronto sites (Toronto East General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children and University Health Network’s Toronto Western Hospital site). This conglomerate will be called the University of Toronto Collaborative Bariatric Surgery Program and will function as one of the four Ontario Bariatric Centres of Excellence. (Click here for PDF of the Press Release)

This money will fund an additional 615 bariatric surgeries at the new University of Toronto Collaborative Bariatric Surgery Program by 2011/2012

While this is not additional money, it does represent a massive expansion of current capacity in Toronto.

No question, the demand is there: in 2008/09 Ontario will fund 1,660 patients for out-of-country bariatric services at $10,000 a pop – with virtually no pre-assessment or long-term follow-up. 

As readers of this blog may know, much of what is now being implemented by the Ontario Government is exactly what was recommended by a Health Technology Utilization Guideline committee, which I had the honor of co-chairing during my time in Ontario.

Not only did this report highlight the urgent need to expand access to bariatric surgery in Ontario, but we also stressed that this should happen in the context of expanding access to interdisciplinary bariatric services and obesity treatments that include medical and behavioural inerventions (not just surgery).

After all, as I have oft stated in these pages – the actual surgery is only a small (but important!) technical piece in a complex chronic disease management plan (Obesity Surgery is Not Just About Surgery).

Edmonton, Alberta