TCI News

Bariatric patients get spotlight in TCI House of Assembly; cry continues for severe obesity surgery

#Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos – October 18, 2020 — Individuals who struggle with being overweight in the Turks and Caicos got the kind of vocal support in the House of Assembly, which makes those in our bariatric community feel a lot lighter.

It is reported that there have to be policy changes in order for bariatric patients to have their severe obesity re-considered. 

It is not cosmetic.  It is a serious medical condition which could be the difference between life and death.

“It is nothing that is cosmetic.  It is something that is life threatening and it is would appear as if their voices are not being heard loud enough.  Those persons live lives in a way that they don’t know if they are going to go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow, that’s how bad it is,” said Hon Dwayne Taylor, Speaker of the TCI House of Assembly.

It was agreement with a presentation by the member for Grand Turk North, Hon George Lightbourne who is calling for efforts to amend the laws to be accelerated.

“I’ve gotten reports from persons who are concerned.  Persons who find themselves in need of – I believe the correct term would be: bariatric surgery – life threatening surgery and I’ve been asked to address it.  The relevant minister, I’m not sure how far you’ve gotten in terms of amending policies and doing whatever you have to do but it’s a real issue,” said Lightbourne during House of Assembly on October 13.

In a Letter to the Editor in June 2020, it was said:  “Some of us have been told over two years ago that they are amending the policy to include this procedure under the NHIP Scheme, and to date, nothing yet. Some of us have been given month to month promises for the last three years that hopefully we would be out of here in a few weeks’ time to a month to undergo surgery, and to date, nothing yet.”

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The TCI Bariatric Group is a community now; in solidarity as they advocate to be acknowledged and approved for the life-saving procedure.  In the June letter to Magnetic Media, the Group talked about steps taken and disappointments experienced.

“For those of you who do not understand the term Bariatric, it is simply means the medical treatment of obesity which is being seriously overweight and a number of us have been deemed medically morbidly obese,” it was added, “We were told that if we got referrals from the doctors, that our issues would be place before the cabinet and that it should not be a problem for us to be given the bariatric procedure which is so badly needed to save all of our lives, so we all went and got numerous of referrals, some exceeding as much as five. We followed the necessary procedures, only to be told that are referrals were refused because the NHIP Policy does not cover this procedure and that it is deemed a cosmetic procedure.”

The Governor, the Premier and the Minister of Health are reportedly aware of the vexing battle of the Bariatric Group.

Lightbourne expressed, it is time for the mischaracterization of the condition to cease.

“Cosmetic, Mr. Speaker is something that you do for fashion and you do because you want to look better.  When the issue is pertaining to something that is life threatening, we ought to take it serious and we ought to act with haste.”

The surgery, according to the Bariatric Group costs around $10,500.  The members are all National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP) contributors and question the lackluster pace to make the adaptations which would all the NHIP to cover the costs of the surgery.

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“We need help, we need this government to live up to the promise made to us. We were told that monies have already been budgeted for these procedures from last year budget and as of today nothing. 

Persons on the outside would look and say, oh go and exercise you all too lazy, or stop eating, you all too greedy and frankly that is not the case. Many of us cannot exercise because of our knees, our backs or something else, and really food is not an issue. It is simply a metabolism issue, a genetic issue or some other kind of medical issue.

Every country we have contacted is offering this surgery free of cost to locals once persons meet the medical requirements, what is wrong with our Country?”

Hon Lightbourne offered this in conclusion:  “I think that our number one interest should be to do whatever it takes to make life better, Mr. Speaker.

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