Bendigo's obesity challenge


EXPANSION: Bendigo Health director of medicine Dr Mark Savage pictured with a bariatric bed. Picture: JODIE WIEGARD

EXPANSION: Bendigo Health director of medicine Dr Mark Savage pictured with a bariatric bed. Picture: JODIE WIEGARD

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FORTY rooms at the new Bendigo hospital will be kitted out to treat patients weighing up to 300 kilograms as the waistlines of residents of Australia’s heaviest region continue to expand. 

Bendigo Health director of medicine Mark Savage said Bendigo’s obesity problem brought with it a suite of problems.

“The more obesity you have, the more cancer there is, the more diabetes, the more heart disease, the more costs for society as a whole,” he said.

Dr Savage said hospital resources were being diverted to deal with obese patients.

“We need to have extra nurses on shift when we have bariatric patients,” he said.

“We need to rent special beds, we have to take nurses off other duties to help move the patients. Even if it’s only for five or ten minutes, it disrupts their work patterns.”

Practising resuscitation on an obese-sized dummy. Picture: SUPPLIED

Practising resuscitation on an obese-sized dummy. Picture: SUPPLIED

Some patients presenting at Bendigo Health are so big health staff are unable to perform CT scans because the tables can’t handle their weight. Some patients can’t fit inside MRI machines.

Advanced life support educator Tracy Kidd said medical staff needed to be specially trained to resuscitate obese patients.

To give chest compressions to a normal-sized adult, health staff use roughly 40 kilograms of downward force. Obese patients can require 60 kilograms of force or more, increasing the possibility of injuries to staff. 

Ms Kidd said obese patients were at higher risk of needing resuscitation because they were more likely to experience cardiac arrest. 

“It’s something we need to plan forward for because it requires more people. Even putting in an intravenous line isn’t as simple because we need longer cannulas,” she said.

Bendigo Health safe manual handling co-ordinator Stephen Morley has been nursing for 24 years and said patients were getting larger all the time. 

“When I started, you would be lucky to see a patient of 120 kilograms. Now we’re dealing with patients up to 200 kilograms routinely and we get patients presenting up to 300 kilograms,” he said. 

“Obesity brings a whole lot of other problems as well; osteoarthritic problems, fertility problems, mobility, social problems, psychological problems, diabetes. It’s just a snowball effect and once one starts, the others follow,” he said.

In the Loddon-Mallee-Murray region, which takes in Bendigo, Echuca and Swan Hill, 41 per cent of adults are obese. 

Seventy per cent of adults in the region are considered overweight, with a body mass index of 25 or more. 

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