More surgeons being trained to perform weight loss surgery at GPHC


By Lazeena Yearwood

Over a year ago, the first-ever weight loss surgery was conducted at the Georgetown Public Hospital and now, with the expansion of the programme, a total of 11 persons have successfully done the surgery.

Now, more doctors are being trained in preparatory, operation and post-operation care to conduct Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery, a form of weight-loss surgery offered to persons who are obese and cannot lose weight.

This move to broaden the scope of people who can conduct and benefit from the surgeries will reduce the global health problem of obesity. At the hospital’s clinic, persons between 20 to 40 years old are commonly affected and in Guyana, 50 per cent of the population is obese.

At this time, 30 persons are expected to undergo the surgery at the GPHC; the first surgery was performed in February 2022.

On Wednesday, Dr. Natoya Lewis Frank, the general surgeon, told a news conference that the need for these surgeries warrants the expansion.

“We have four surgical teams and all of our surgeons are trained and competent to perform basic laparoscopic surgeries, such as appendectomy but at this time, we embarking on training the surgeons to perform advanced laparoscopic surgeries, so we hoping that the bariatric surgeries will be able to offer it extensively,” Dr. Frank said.

Dr. Natoya Lewis Frank, General Surgeon (Photo: News Room/ June 21, 2023)

Patients who have non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and who do not lead healthy lifestyles can benefit from this surgery if for some reason, they cannot lose weight.

Dr Hemraj Ramcharran, who is a consultant for the surgeries, noted that the surgeries are great for weight loss but importantly, to improve the lifestyle of each person, especially women who have health complications.

“It has actually been found to assist with pregnancy, especially in persons suffering from PCOS; it reduces it because it has a relationship with obesity, so by reducing the obesity, you actually improve the PCOS and so persons have a higher chance of getting pregnant,” Dr. Ramcharran said.

The minimally invasive surgery is not a “go-to” for weight loss; in fact, doctors and patients conduct multiple attempts for weight loss before the surgery is suggested. Particularly in Guyana, the doctors will refer the patient to a nutritionist and if dieting or lifestyle changes do not help, only then is the surgery approved but not without consulting several healthcare providers to ensure that the person is mentally and physically healthy to undergo such a transformation.

Dr Hemraj Ramcharran (Photo: News Room/ June 21, 2022)

According to two patients – Teekah Singh and Sharon Stevenson- who underwent the surgery, their stomach now holds less, and therefore, they know when they are full and stop eating until they feel hungry again.

“I can eat, drink, anything I want but [it’s the amount] and you [have to eat] healthy. You don’t have any problem and you must know when you’re full,” Stevenson said.

Obese persons are those persons with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. With this surgery, there is no long cut (no long incision) that is made to enter the stomach. It involves removing or limiting a section of the stomach and rearranging it to consume smaller portions of food. This can significantly help with weight loss as the person will eat less but it is not constraining.

Additionally, the doctors will monitor the patient for up to two years after the surgery as there is a risk of the person becoming obese again. However, once the patient follows the instructions of the nutritionist, uses their medication and remains disciplined with eating habits, the risk is reduced.

Importantly, bariatric surgical intervention to treat obesity is not yet routine in developing countries, proving that Guyana’s health sector has made a tremendous step forward.

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