Deaths linked to obe­sity in­crease

Pilbara News - - News - Cathy O’Leary

■ 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.

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