Michael Garron Hospital and Unity Health Toronto open Bariatric Centre of Excellence to improve local access to bariatric surgical care

By Emily Dawson and Andrea Nameth

(from left) Dr. Ori Rotstein, Jane Harwood, Kelly Tough, Dr. Mary-Anne Aarts and Sonya Canzian.

Dec. 17, 2019 – Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) and Unity Health Toronto have partnered to open a Bariatric Centre of Excellence (BCoE) to provide their communities with access to bariatric surgical care close to home.

“Bariatric surgery is one of the most effective ways for people to manage chronic conditions related to obesity, such as diabetes and hypertension, yet access to surgery remains a challenge. By enabling people to receive bariatric surgery and care closer to home, we can support more people on their journey to better health and a better quality of life,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, a bariatric surgeon and Vice-President of Research at Unity Health.

A BCoE provides services with a team of experts who have adopted best practices to help people manage obesity. The Unity Health – MGH BCoE, which started seeing patients in October 2019, involves the opening of a Bariatric Assessment Centre (BAC) at Providence Healthcare and a partnership of three existing bariatric surgery sites: St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and MGH. Together, the Centre provides comprehensive pre-operative, peri-operative and post-operative bariatric surgical care.

Patients seen at the Unity Health – MGH BCoE will first visit the Providence site to meet with an inter-disciplinary team of dietitians, social workers and nurses with the involvement of psychiatry, medicine and surgery specialists. Through a comprehensive orientation program, the team will help patients assess if this is the right time to undergo bariatric surgery and discuss the different factors to consider as they make this decision. Topics include an overview of bariatric care options, types of bariatric surgery and the health and lifestyle changes that patients can expect post-surgery.

Following surgery, which can take place at any of the three surgical sites, the BAC team will follow patients for up to one year and help them transition to their family physician for ongoing care.

“Our long-standing relationship with MGH gave us a solid foundation from which to build this important new partnership. This is a patient-focused solution that will benefit hundreds of people ever year and provide easier access to seamless, integrated bariatric care,” said Sonya Canzian, Chief Nursing and Health Professions Officer at Unity Health.

Bariatric Centres of Excellence are a part of the Ontario Bariatric Network (OBN), a collaborative network funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that provides comprehensive medical and surgical bariatric services. Patients are allocated to one of the OBN’s bariatric centres based on their postal code.

Prior to the opening of the Unity Health – MGH BCoE, patients living in the St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and MGH catchment areas often received their bariatric surgery elsewhere, based on where the OBN’s assessment centres were located in the Greater Toronto Area and which surgical site they referred patients to.

With the opening of the Unity Health – MGH BCoE, patients can now receive all aspects of their bariatric care close to home.

“Geographic location is one of the most important factors that impacts access to, uptake and retention in bariatric surgery,” said Kelly Tough, manager of the Unity Health – MGH BCoE.

“Our shared goal is to improve equity and access to bariatric surgery services in our catchment areas.”

The Unity Health – MGH BCoE serves patients from 11 postal codes. Referrals can be made through the OBN’s Online Referral System.