Lisa Williams

Doctors: free weight-loss surgery will save taxpayers money

ONCE a person's body mass index reaches 40, there is almost a zero chance they will lose the weight.

That is one of the arguments doctors have used in their call to make weight-loss surgery free and more available in public hospitals to help tackle rising obesity levels.

The Australian Medical Association Queensland has released a five-year Health Vision report which suggests ways the health service could tackle problems such as obesity and alcohol abuse.

Australia and New Zealand Obesity Surgery Society president George Hopkins said health savings would be made if weight-loss surgery was made more available.

The surgery costs about $15,000 and Dr Hopkins said it would put less stress on the health system from ongoing conditions that arose from obesity, such as diabetes, heart conditions and respiratory problems.

He said bariatric surgery had been happening for 10 years.

"But what we're hoping for is to make it more a centrepiece of an obesity strategy," Dr Hopkins said.

But he did not believe the strategy would leave taxpayers forking out extra money.

"Taxpayers are already paying for it," he said. "But once their weight comes down, there will be significant savings for the taxpayer.

"The science tells us that once someone's BMI goes beyond 40 the chances of them losing their weight without surgical intervention is close to zero."

Doctors say a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25.

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