No more weight-loss surgery at Valley Medical Center

After several years of operations and more than 600 patients, Valley Medical Center’s Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center is closing.

  • Friday, September 12, 2008 5:05pm
  • Business

After several years of operations and more than 600 patients, Valley Medical Center’s Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center is closing.

The center stopped performing surgeries in August and will close Oct. 10.

Pamela Fowler, a Valley Medical spokeswoman, said the “business decision” was made “after careful consideration of the current healthcare climate and the demand for (gastric) bypass surgeries.”

The center simply wasn’t “a good business venture,” said Don Jacobson, one of the elected commissioners of Valley Medical, whose service area includes the Covington and Maple Valley areas. “I guess the need wasn’t there, and there wasn’t enough demand to support it.”

As of spring 2007, the center had served about 600 patients. But the number of patients has been declining.

In an interview last April, Gabriel Alperovich, the center’s medical director, said the center averaged 20 patients a month in its early days but had gotten down to four to six cases a month.

Fowler said Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center was once one of the few of its kind offered by hospitals or surgical centers. But she said the last few years have “seen a proliferation” of hospitals making bariatrics care available. The increased competition meant fewer patients at Valley Medical.

Fowler noted that patient numbers weren’t helped any by insurance companies, which often don’t cover bariatric services, or the economy’s downturn. “Fewer and fewer were willing to self-pay,” she said.

Fowler said Valley Medical no longer sees bariatrics as a “core” of its future medical services.

Still, Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss enjoyed success while it lasted. The center was ranked number 1 in Washington in 2007 and in the top 10 percent in the nation for bariatric surgery by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings organization. The rankings were based on outcomes from gastric bypass and laparoscopic procedures in hospitals in 17 states during 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center had one of the lowest complication rates in the nation for bariatric surgery. But complications did exist. One patient died while undergoing bariatric surgery there, and others suffered from complications or were unsatisfied with the amount of weight they lost.

Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center focused on diet, exercise, mental health, surgery and education. Surgeries included gastric bypass and lap-band. Both reduce a patient’s stomach so they can comfortably eat small portions.

Fowler said the center will continue providing post-surgical patient care until it closes. Valley Medical will also continue limited followup care and monthly support meetings for post-surgical patients until mid-2009.

Fowler said Valley Medical has notified patients of the weight loss center’s closure and has informed them of options available at other hospitals.

Emily Garland can be reached at egarland@reporternewspapers.com.


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