Ontario's minister of health and long term care has announced funding to treat patients with severe obesity at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Deb Matthews announced that $300,000 has been approved for the hospital's bariatric services program, which will allow 100 people to be treated in a medical and behavioural treatment program.


Thunder Bay area MPPs Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle flank Ontario minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Matthews at a funding announcement held Wednesday at the city's hospital. The hospital's bariatric program will receive $300,000 in funding from the province. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"Evidence shows that behavioural treatment can be an effective means for combating obesity," Matthews said.

"The approach Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences is taking with respect to bariatric care not only works to prevent chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it helps contribute to a more cost effective health care system."

Bariatric surgery is considered an effective treatment for morbid obesity, but the ministry said compelling evidence has been published on the effectiveness of behavioural treatment. It said the medical treatment program serves as either a support or as an alternative to surgery.

Clients could include:

  • Patients seeking surgery but requiring considerable pre-op preparation and management to reduce their surgical risk.
  • Long-term post-operative patients requiring intervention and support.
  • Patients who choose not to go to surgery.
  • Patients who do not qualify for surgery but still require bariatric medical care.

The announcement was made at the hospital Wednesday by Matthews, accompanied by Thunder Bay-area MPP's Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle.

Ontario's bariatric treatment network includes four Centres of Excellence and four Regional Assessment and Treatment Centres.

The government said it helps to provide treatment for Ontarians close to home, resulting in savings of about $10,000 for every bariatric case that might otherwise have gone to the United States.

The new bariatric services program is part of the province’s strategy to reduce the risk of diabetes among the population.