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The Center for Weight Management takes a team approach to care as led by (front, from left) Dr. Robert Wroblewski, Sandy Jones, PA-C, and Dr. Daniel Smith. (Submitted photo)

Center for Weight Management recognized

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Canadian residents will soon be making trips to Park Rapids for gastric bypass surgery at the direction of Ontario's Ministry of Health.

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The Ministry of Health recently named the Center for Weight Management (a service of St. Joseph's Area Health Services and Innovis Health) a "U.S. Preferred Provider."

The agreement with Ontario could mean an additional 25 to 50 patients referred to the Center for Weight Management per year, as estimated by Dr. Daniel Smith, surgeon. The numbers hold the potential for an economic impact on behalf of the Center as well as the community.

Dr. Dan Smith learned of Ontario's interest in the Center for Weight Management in May when the Ministry went in search of weight loss centers located near the Ontario and US border that ranked as an American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence. The Center for Weight Management was re-certified as a Center of Excellence for the next three years. It has also earned merit as a Blue Cross, Blue Shield Blue Distinction Center.

Canadian patients will begin to be referred from the northwest region of Ontario to the Park Rapids site.

"We are very proud to have been selected by the Ontario Ministry of Health, and we think there is great potential for new patients to seek our services," said Ben Koppelman, St. Joseph's President/CEO. "With our newly renovated facilities and expanded bariatric team, we feel that we can provide a very high level of care and service for these patients."

Dr. Smith explained that the decision for Ontario's government to refer bariatric patients to the U.S. largely stems from a medical study on obesity that concludes "surgery decreases long-term mortality, morbidity, and healthcare use in morbidly obese patients." The study, conducted in Quebec, appears in the Annals of Surgery, 2004 (Ann Surg 2004; 240: 416-424). It follows the medical histories of obese patients over a five-year period and includes control groups of patients of similar age, sex and body mass index who underwent gastric bypass surgery and of those who were not treated surgically.

The study concludes that the obese patients without weight-loss surgery were, over the five-year period, "nine times more likely to die" than their counterparts. In addition, medical costs were 50 percent more in the control group than the group that had surgery, Dr. Smith said.

"The bottom line is that for every person who had surgery in this study, nine people who did not have surgery died in that five-year period," he said.

Another conclusion drawn from the study is that even with the cost of the surgery, it was still worth it from a financial savings perspective and that the surgery basically "pays for itself," Smith added.

Dr. Smith said countries are fast becoming aware that evidence shows that "bariatric surgery improves the quality of life, improves the length of life and reduces medical costs for patients."

Ontario's government responded to the study by dictating that its healthcare system cannot delay treatment for patients in need of gastric bypass surgery (this does not include banding or sleeve procedures). Only two hospitals in Ontario perform gastric bypass surgery (McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Toronto), which is why they are tapping into border state weight-loss centers as resources for their patients.

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