'NO MIRACLE FIX': Weight-loss surgery taken too lightly
A $200 MILLION drain on superannuation to finance expensive weight-loss surgeries has sparked calls for public funding, but having gone through the process herself, Warwick woman Rachael Freeman is against the idea.
Bariatric surgeries like lap-band or gastric sleeve surgery are not publicly funded and can cost patients upwards of $12,000 without health insurance and $5000 with health insurance.
But Ms Freeman warned funnelling taxpayer money into weight-loss procedures would only put pressure on the health system and create psychological problems for unprepared patients.
"It just seems to be so popular out there now," Ms Freeman said.
"If they bring it into the public system people will come through like cattle running through a gate."
Ms Freeman said bariatric surgery was something no one should take lightly, and she worried that public availability would make people rush into the decision.
"People treat it as an easy option and it's not. Why should all the taxpayers have to go out here and support all those obese people who are looking for a quick fix?"
Ms Freeman saved for three years to have a gastric band inserted around her stomach in 2009, but said even after years of preparation she wasn't quite ready. Although the surgery helped her lose some weight initially, it wasn't completely successful and there are ways of "cheating the band".
"It's not a miracle and it's not a quick fix and you've got to be completely committed and psychologically prepared before you get it done," Ms Freeman said.
Since having the surgery, Ms Freeman has had to live with constant pain, fullness and bloating and has completely altered her diet.
"It changes your life completely, and you have to be prepared for that."
Warwick-based Healthy Lifestyles Australia dietician Caitlyn Henderson agreed that public funding for bariatric surgeries could raise complications.
"I think it would be good to have that support in certain circumstances but the government would have to be very careful with how they found the candidates for their funding," she said.
"They would have to make sure the funding covered overall ongoing support and education after the surgery."
She spoke out against comments that likened bariatric surgery to non-vital cosmetic surgeries and supported policies allowing patients to access retirement savings.
"We're talking about people's health not just physical appearance," she said.
"A lot of people who get these surgeries are already facing serious health problems whether it's hypertension or diabetes or something else.
"These sorts of surgeries can be life changing and improve people's mental and emotional health too.
"It's much more than just improving their physical appearance."
Warwick dietician Elia Faa said bariatric surgeries were usually a last resort for people who had tried other weight loss strategies and faced extreme and ongoing health problems.
She said prime candidates would be people who were psychologically stable and under 50 years of age.
"I would consider it for things like helping women with fertility or people with pre-existing diabetes," she said.
Ms Freeman said she was also unprepared for the ongoing costs of her procedure which included a lifetime of vitamins and regular doctor's appointments.
Being regionally located added further pressure for Ms Freeman, having to travel to her surgeon for saline injections every six weeks.