Obesity surgery bill hits €1m as crisis worsens
The cost of surgeries carried out in public hospitals for the treatment of morbid obesity soared by 50pc last year to more than €1m.
A total of 112 morbidly obese patients underwent procedures to surgically limit their food intake and reduce their weight at a total cost of €1,029,908.
The number of people undergoing such operations each year has more than doubled since 2010 as the country's obesity crisis has worsened.
Ireland is on course to become the fattest nation in Europe within the next decade, acc- ording to the World Health Organisation.
During the past eight years more than €5.2m has been spent on bariatric surgery - the term covering various types of procedures for the treatment of morbid obesity - for 637 patients in public hospitals.
The costly operations are designed to encourage weight loss by surgically altering the process of digestion or by reducing the size of a patient's stomach to limit food intake.
Surgeries performed include gastric bypass procedures, which redirect food away from some parts of the stomach and small intestine so that the body absorbs fewer calories.
There is also gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to reduce its capacity so that the patient feels full after eating a small amount of food.
Bariatric procedures are carried out almost exclusively in two public hospitals - St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin and University Hospital Galway (UHG). Some services are also provided at South Infirmary in Cork.
An HSE spokesperson said surgical interventions for morbid obesity are performed on the basis of a clinical diagnosis by a medical consultant.
The figures, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that each procedure cost an average of more than €9,000.