Sask. has lowest access to weight loss surgery in Western Canada: report

A new study shows Saskatchewan has one of the worst access rates to bariatric surgery in Western Canada.

The report, written by the Canadian Obesity Network, shows only one out of 806 patients in the province has access to the surgery. In Alberta, the rate is more than double, at one out of 303 patients.

"More than 1.5 million Canadians are classified as having Class II or III obesity, which is associated with negative health outcomes," said the network's scientific director Dr. Arya M. Sharma in a news release.

"Clearly, we need to do a much better job of helping them with the tools at our disposal."

Meanwhile, the study shows 25 per cent of people in Saskatchewan are obese, the highest rate in the West and one of the highest rates in the country.

The study also shows patients wait two years on average between a referral and a consultation, receiving an F grade from the network. However, Saskatchewan received a B grade for wait times between consultation and surgery with a six-month wait time.

"We have a long way to go in Canada before we can say we properly support people with obesity," said network chair Marty Enokson.

"We don't blame people living with cancer, heart disease or diabetes for their disease, and we don't make them fend for themselves in terms of finding help."

The report also criticizes Canadian drug plans for not covering anti-obesity medication. Less than 20 per cent of the Canadian population with private drug benefit plans have access to these medications.

If left untreated, the network said obesity can result in significant illness, a profound reduction in quality of life, and increased mortality.

The Canadian Obesity Network is a coalition of obesity researchers and policy makers that works towards educating the public on obesity and prevention.