OUTSPOKEN: Gladstone Hospital director of surgery Dr Stefaan De Clercq says bariatric surgery should be available in Gladstone and in the public health system.
OUTSPOKEN: Gladstone Hospital director of surgery Dr Stefaan De Clercq says bariatric surgery should be available in Gladstone and in the public health system. Chris Lees

Call for weight-loss surgery to be taxpayer-funded

BARIATRIC surgery needs to be offered in Gladstone to help fix Central Queensland's obesity crisis.

That's the opinion of Gladstone Hospital's director of surgery Dr Stefaan De Clercq.

Dr De Clercq has been acting in the position for more than two years but now has the official title.

As highlighted through the Gladstone Observer's Fair Go For Our Kids campaign, in Central Queensland, 27.3 per cent of children are overweight or obese.

Dr De Clercq, originally from Belgium, is an expert in bariatrics, the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity. Gastric band surgery is part of this field.

However, bariatric surgery is not available to everyone within the public health system.

"I wasn't allowed to do any bariatric stuff within Queensland Health which was of course disappointing," Dr De Clercq said.

"Because I'm working at the moment full-time in public, it's not funded by the government.

"In my opinion ... obesity is a public health issue and should be dealt with by public hospitals."

Dr De Clercq said he had raised the issue with Queensland Health and put forward a pilot project surrounding weight-loss surgery.

"I made a proposal to start a sample program for type two diabetics," he said.

"The surgery, in 70-80 per cent of cases will heal the patients from type two diabetes, so they get rid of it in two weeks."

The new director of surgery said the idea of the pilot program was to prove it was beneficial and there was a return on investment.

"This is not new, I've been doing bariatric surgery for more than 10 years, I've seen my own results but you have to prove it to the government so you get the funding," Dr De Clercq said.

In July this year, the State Government launched a $5 million initiative over two years for potentially life-saving weight loss surgery for up to 300 Queenslanders with type 2 diabetes, which is essentially Dr De Clercq's program.

Although Dr De Clercq's proposal was implemented, he said unfortunately it was being done in Brisbane.

"I just wanted to have $500,000 so I could establish it here (in Gladstone)," he said.


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