Coalition urges more bariatric surgery

Marie-Claude Dupont wants to get on with her life — to do things like have children or even be able to tie her shoes.

MONTREAL — Marie-Claude Dupont wants to get on with her life — to do things like have children or even be able to tie her shoes.

Dupont, who weighs 351 pounds, is one of many Quebecers awaiting bariatric surgery to correct a severe weight problem.

“I’ve been told two- to two-and-a-half years because I’m pre-diabetic and I also have some blood problems,” Dupont says of her possible wait time for gastric surgery.

“I’ve started to have some back problems so I’m in bad shape.”

Dupont, 29, has officially been waiting for about a month.

Quebec has increased its volume of bariatic surgeries since it became a provincial government priority in May 2009 but a coalition representing the morbidly obese says more must be done.

More surgeries, fewer delays and a better picture of waiting times are needed, coalition spokeswomen told a news conference.

The provincial Health Department says the number of weight-loss operations has risen from 840, when its plan was announced, to 1,600. That exceeds the target of 1,500 surgeries for 2010.

Karine Rivard, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Yves Bolduc, said in an interview the objective is to reach 3,000 bariatric surgeries in 2012.

However, the coalition argues that wait times remain the same and the number of people seeking surgery has increased from 4,800 in 2009 to 6,000 in 2010.

Some clinics put the wait times at a minimum of six months to as long as seven years.

The coalition’s numbers are based on estimates from the clinics because the Health Department doesn’t have the data.

“We are not able to quantify the waiting lists,” said Rivard, adding that “institutions do not have the same concept of patient waiting” and therefore can easily compute it.

She said some calculate the wait time as starting from when patients are evaluated for surgery, while others look at patients who are waiting for an assessment for surgery.

For Dupont, it’s more than a battle of statistics — it’s health and quality of life.

She says she has always been overweight and has tried everything, including diets and hitting the gym, to lose the pounds.

“It isn’t that I haven’t tried, it’s that it doesn’t work,” she said in an interview.

Now she’s pinning her hopes on bariatric surgery.

“It’s not a miracle. You’ll have to work for it but still it is something that can help you and help you a lot.”

Life as an obese person is fraught with the fear of things most people take for granted, she says.

“Being scared of sitting on chairs because you don’t want to break them, trying to buckle up in a car, trying to tie your shoes,” she explained, saying these are problems people usually associate with the handicapped.

“I’m not handicapped, at least not in the same way. I’m not paralyzed but still I am definitely restrained from the mobility that the normal person has.”

Being denied surgery because of long wait times means life just gets “worse and worse and worse,” she said.

Dupont weighs about twice what she should. She says she never expected to get so big and would be ecstatic if she lost 200 pounds.