Hundreds in Sask. waiting for weight-loss surgery

A number of morbidly obese people in Saskatchewan say they are getting sick waiting for weight-loss surgery.

A number of morbidly obese people in Saskatchewansay they are getting sick waiting for weight-loss surgery.

Right now, there are about 330 people on the waiting list and no new patients being accepted in Saskatoon, the main centre for bariatric surgery in the province.

In November, a new rule prevented anyone over 350 pounds from getting the operation.

That's led some people to look elsewhere for weight-loss surgery. In the past two years, 12 people from Saskatchewan, for example,have gone to Brazil for the operation.

Among them is Tess Boehm, who before her operation weighed around 450 pounds.

Now, about 200 pounds lighter, she says she can run up her stairs and cross her legs, things she couldn't do two years ago.

"Because I now have lost this weight, I will not need a hip replacement in the future," she said. "I will not need medication to deal with my high blood pressure, my diabetes. All those issues are solved."

Operation costly

However, it cost her $18,000 and Saskatchewan Health will not pay her medical expenses.

Boehm hopes that rule will change for other morbidly obese people who need help now.

Morbidly obese means a person is more than 100 pounds overweight and has a body mass index of 40 or higher,according to Health Canada. Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.

Regina surgeon Gordie Kaban believes bariatric surgery can work and it helps people with other weight-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

However, surgery is not a fix for all obesity, he said.

He likes the approach the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region wants to go in— a weight-loss centre where health professionals from different areas can come together.

"It's kind of a holistic approach to getting people to lose weight and not necessarily come to surgery and have surgery but to improve their health," he said.