About 2,000 people are now undergoing bariatric surgery, the surgical procedure to reduce weight by limiting the intake of food, annually in Qatar, a senior Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) official revealed yesterday.
Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari, bariatric surgery consultant at HMC, said that the number was very high for a small country like Qatar and it was in addition to the number of people seeking the surgery in foreign countries.
He said the number of such surgeries in Japan was about 200, adding that people must seriously consider the real benefits of the surgery before undergoing it.
Dr Jamal Rashid al-Khanji, director of Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety at Supreme Council of Health ( SCH) and CEO of Qatar Council of Healthcare Practitioners, said that a large number of people also went to other countries for the surgery.
He added that there were no accurate statistics regarding the number of people going abroad for the surgery as people did not want to reveal it.
“There were three confirmed deaths in Qatar on account of bariatric surgery done in foreign countries. It has been observed that many of them develop serious complications after the surgery was done in other countries. So far in the last six months, 19 cases of serious complications were reported from among the people who had undergone the surgery in other countries. This may the tip of the iceberg, as these are cases reported to HMC and there might be many other cases which are not reported at all.”
He said that many people go abroad for this surgery due to the lesser cost of the surgery in those countries. “They must think of the risks involved in this practice and compare it with the cost. Now with the new insurance scheme in effect, all the citizens are covered for bariatric surgery according to the norms of the insurance scheme. Therefore, there is no need for Qataris to travel abroad for this surgery.”
“Furthermore in Qatar, we have got one of the best bariatric surgery units in the world. We do not want to compromise on anything and want to provide the optimal quality treatment for everyone. Therefore,we thought of issuing some guidelines as there must be some checks and balances in the treatment.”
Dr al-Kuwari said that there were several benefits associated with the surgery but it depended on each individual. He explained: “The surgery must be done for the right people. There is no point in going for a surgery if a person is some 15kg overweight. The surgery can reduce only some 6 or 7kg in that case. But that is not worth the risk associated with the surgery.”
Dr al-Khanji said that any surgery can be complicated and so is the case with bariatric surgery. “We cannot say that a surgeon is 100% successful in conducting a surgery and there can be complications. But how far can these complications go and what can be the percentage of these complications? In bariatric surgeries done abroad, we find many complications and some of them very serious ones. Therefore, we thought that we must regulate the process and have come out with the guidelines.”