Follow me on

Why Do Patients Leave Canada For Bariatric Surgery?

sharma-obesity-bariatric-surgery21Carly Hohm is a masters student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, who is looking for Canadian patients who have travelled outside Canada for bariatric surgery.

Cathy has chosen this topic for her master’s thesis because of the lack of evidence regarding the patient experience of engaging in bariatric tourism. Indeed, very little research has been done assessing the impact that engaging in bariatric tourism has on Canadians and the Canadian health care system.

Her hypothesis is that patients are engaging in the practice of bariatric tourism for reasons such as the the wait times to access the surgery in Canada through the public system being longer than five years on average, as well as the variability in funding for specific bariatric procedures between the provinces (some procedures only being offered in the Canadian private sector and therefore it is cheaper to go abroad for surgery).

Through her qualitative study Cathy seeks to answer two main research objectives:

1)What are the motivators driving Canadian patients to seek bariatric surgery outside of the Canadian Health Care system?

2)What is the patient experience upon returning to Canada post-surgery (experiences with complications and/or follow-up care)?

To answer these questions Cathy is conducting semi-structured interviews with former Canadian bariatric “tourists”

You can contact Cathy at

Your help is very much appreciated.

New York, NY


  1. I am excited that this issue will be studied further and will be contacting her to participate in the study. Dr. Sharma what do you think of this phenomena?

    I am going to Mexico in May for bariatric surgery because of the fact that I may not qualify in SK, even though my health is deteriorating and I’m now 100 pounds over what I weighed in high school (my bmi is 36). I have suffered from obesity for 20 years now and I’m not prepared to wait the 3+ years it would take to get into our only obesity clinic. As well I am in the “grey” area of qualifying here – I would need to be submit my health concerns and be evaluated. Since I “only” have glucose intolerance and not “severe diabetes mellitus” as listed on the site, I am assuming I would not. I do regret I won’t receive the “program” that is available when you qualify in province though. However I’m using supports that are available here, like dietitian, counselling, and being followed closely by my Nurse Practitioner so as to replicate my own program. It’s not perfect but neither is being obese and having no options – that’s what I feel I have left for me. I’ve tried every “good” program out there with no long term success. Having the surgery will finally give me a tool to help me and I am VERY excited!!!!

    Post a Reply
    • The concern is the pre and post care – it’ll be interesting how this problem effects outcomes.

      Post a Reply
  2. As a matter of interest, I suspect that this challenge is not confined to bariatric surgery. Specifically I refer to dental surgery as well.

    I am in Australia, and it is almost normal for Australians to seek such surgeries (and others I suspect) in Asian countries like India, Thailand, Philippines etc. We also note that expatriate South Africans return to South Africa for these procedures. It is much cheaper with our Australian Dollar to purchase these services!

    My thoughts are that it is about economics or finances, and the lack of genuine competition in the medical business. The supply and demand in the medical business (industry) is well managed by our first world medical public representatives (in Australia we call them the Australian Medical Association).

    When I want to buy a car, white goods, clothing, business service etc., I look around the world for the best deal and I am relatively free to buy what I want from where-ever I want based on my view of the price and value of the item or service.

    However, when I want dental or bariatric surgery, I have little choice: its either:
    (i) the public health service to which I have to prove that I am worthy of that investment of public funds (we already know that good dental health and weight management (via bariatric surgery) has profoundly positive health and economic outcomes for individuals, the community and society in general) or there is the alternative of
    (ii) the private health service which demands a very high (and unrealistic) fee for the service.

    My suggestion is that if we better examine the supply side of the equation, by reducing the price, or allowing free-er operation of surgeons and medical practitioners across international borders in the same way we consider say, financial services, and considering these people as international citizens and service providers the demand will be met and the desire to travel internationally for such services will be reduced.


    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *