Deaths linked to obesity increase
■ Obesity is contributing to almost one in 10 surgery-related deaths in WA — a fourfold increase in just over a decade.
The latest surgical mortality report also reveals an increase in deaths in patients who have been transferred between hospitals, with poor handovers and using junior staff partly to blame.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ audit, funded by the WA Health Department, examines patients who have died in the State’s public and private hospitals while under the care of a surgeon.
The report found the number of deaths had fallen 15 per cent in five years, with two cases caused by an adverse event last year. But it found a marked rise in obesity and diabeteslinked deaths in patients, which it said reflected wider trends across the community.
Audit chairman and Perth surgeon James Aitken said there had been a progressive increase in surgeons citing obesity as contributing to deaths.
“In 2002, the incidence of obesity as a comorbidity for surgical mortality was approximately 2.5 per cent but by 2014 it was almost 10 per cent, ” Mr Aitken said.
“This strongly suggests that lifestyle issues contribute to riskier surgery.”
Mr Aitken also raised concerns about the rate of deaths in patients after a hospital transfer rising to 30 per cent.
Contributing factors were patients being sent to hospitals not able to manage them, complex cases being handled by isolated junior doctors, delays in assessment and test results from referring hospitals failing to arrive. “Many of these issues revolved around the lack of a robust referral pathway, poor communication and resultant delay, ” Mr Aitken said.
“Importantly, these transfers are a weekly, often daily event ... there is every incentive to get this right.”
WA Health’s chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed said the audit showed surgical care was improving in WA.