Weight management is about more than just reducing numbers on the scale, it’s about improving health and wellbeing. For some patients, that means bariatric surgery – a service that has been available in Thunder Bay for just over a year now.
TBRHSC’s Regional Bariatric Care Centre (RBCC) is a Bariatric Centre of Excellence that provides services and options for those struggling with obesity. The bariatric surgical services, which include pre- and post-operative care, counseling, and surgical services, have successfully helped over 135 patients in the first year.
A big part of bariatric care is educating patients about their health. “First and foremost, bariatric surgery is about health,” explains Susan Kirby, Social Worker, Bariatric Care, TBRHSC. “This is not a quick fix or a last resort – it’s a viable treatment for obesity that can help people, along with behaviour changes, to live healthier lives.”
Bariatric surgery can be a great option for people who want to improve their health and reduce the risks associated with obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or osteoarthritis.
“As body size increases, longevity decreases,” explains Kirby. “Even small changes in body weight can lessen a patient’s risk for many serious medical problems. That’s why the bariatric services that we provide here at the RBCC can significantly reduce rates of chronic illness among bariatric patients and help them live long and healthy lives.”
Patients must be referred to the bariatric program through a physician or nurse practitioner. Guidelines to determine a patient’s candidacy for surgery are set out by the Ontario Bariatric Network. Eligibility is then determined by an interdisciplinary team of bariatric experts including an internal medicine physician, psychologist, dietitian and bariatric surgeon
“There is often a lot of fear associated with surgery, but bariatric surgery is a safe laparoscopic procedure that has many benefits,” explains Kirby. There are numerous studies that have found improvement or resolution of life-threatening obesity –related diseases following bariatric surgery.
According to Sarah Miller, Registered Dietitian, Bariatric Care, TBRHSC, another common misconception associated with bariatric surgery is the fear of an extremely restricted diet and lifestyle post-surgery. “After surgery, we provide ongoing care and support as patients work towards behavior changes,” explains Miller. “It isn’t about a restrictive diet, but about creating a healthier relationship with food and adopting a more balanced way of eating that will allow patients to maintain their ‘best weight’ – which is the lowest weight you can achieve while maintaining the healthiest lifestyle you can enjoy.”
The RBCC approaches weight loss as a holistic process, and the care team includes 2 bariatric surgeons, a psychologist, nurse, 2 dietitians, social worker, a nurse practitioner, internal medicine physicians, and a kinesiologist as well as Patient Family Advisors.
“As a team, we provide ongoing care and support as our patients work towards their behavior changes and their ‘new normal’,” says Miller. “It’s all about health and with the ongoing support we provide, our patients are usually thrilled with their results. It’s really rewarding to help patients improve their quality of life so drastically, we get to see them blossom into their new healthier, happier selves.”
Click for more information about TBRHSC’s Regional Bariatric Care Centre. More information regarding bariatric surgery and eligibility requirements can also be found on the Ontario Bariatric Network’s website: www.ontariobariatricnetwork.ca.