By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: Health experts yesterday cautioned people against undergoing surgeries overseas for weight loss (bariatric surgery) as three people have died after operation and many have been suffering life-threatening complications.
Many people go abroad for the surgery, mainly to avoid the waiting list and high costs but unfortunately they risk their lives and health, said Dr Jamal Rashid Alkhanji, Director, Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety, Supreme Council of Health (SCH).
Although there are no specific details of countries or the number of people going abroad for the surgery, Dr Alkhanji said many come back with life-threatening complications. “They are compromising on quality for money… Some people are in a hurry to undergo surgery, they can’t wait for two months on the waiting list. We urge people not to go abroad for bariatric surgery,” he told a press conference at the SCH yesterday.
He said Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and some private hospitals in Qatar have the best surgical facilities and surgeons for weight loss.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (Seha) also covers weight loss surgeries for Qataris.
This surgery to lose weight is the most successful treatment for obesity currently available. Yet, it is a very specific and complicated surgery and can be harmful to the patient if not performed in the right set-up.
“We have received 19 serious complications and HMC has been notified by relatives of three people who died due to weight loss surgeries in foreign countries,” said Dr Mohamed Alkwari, HMC Consultant (Bariatric Surgery).
“The complications are serious — blood clots in small intestine, and in some cases surgical cuts are not closed properly and wound site infections. Such conditions are unacceptable surgical complications,” he said.
With 30 percent of the population in Qatar being obese, an average of 2,000 weight loss surgeries are conducted each year.
At HMC, it is done free for Qataris and at a cost of QR5,000 for expats, while it could cost QR50,000 in a private hospital.
As the national regulator for health services, the SCH has set high standards for weight loss surgeries. Violators — physicians and healthcare facilities — are warned or their licences could be cancelled depending on the nature of violation.
The body mass index (BMI) is a key factor in deciding overweight . It shows the relationship between a person’s weight and height. If an adult’s BMI is over 40 or has health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol or depression, the person could choose to undergo weight loss surgery.
There are two basic methods of weight loss surgery — restrictive surgery and Malabsorptive surgery. Restrictive surgery decreases food intake by creating a small upper stomach pouch to limit it. Malabsorptive surgery alters digestion, causing the food to be poorly digested and completely absorbed. Both are implemented through procedures known as gastric banding, gastric balloon and sleeve bypass surgeries. The Peninsula