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Surgery and sugar-bans: How are health boards fighting fat?

DONNA-LEE BIDDLE, March 19 2017, Stuff

Bariatric surgeon, Dr David Schroeder, was the first to pioneer gastric bypass surgery in New Zealand.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ.

Bariatric surgeon, Dr David Schroeder, was the first to pioneer gastric bypass surgery in New Zealand.

Dr David Schroeder thought he could cure diabetes with a scalpel.At his peak, Schroeder performed 13 surgeries a week – two gastric bypass surgeries on a Monday, four on a Tuesday and seven gastric bands on a Friday.

He was operating on patients who would die from diabetes. At about $27,000 per surgery, it was cost-effective for district health boards and patients were ditching their insulin before leaving the hospital.

“We became aware a very long time ago that you could apparently cure diabetes by doing a gastric bypass on people,” Schroeder said.”It was just an amazing thing to see them go home off their insulin. And we thought, this is fantastic.

“So I said to the diabetic department, ‘it’s probably more cost effective if you let me do a gastric bypass on your patient and then it’ll take away a lot of the medications and the follow ups’.”They looked at the literature and the literature looked great. So they then started sending me their worst patients, the patients that were going to die if they didn’t get their diabetes under control.”

But it only worked for a short time. After a year, Schroeder’s patients had regained the weight and were back on the insulin. He said he and his team failed to look at why their patients’ diabetes were out of control. It was more complicated than picking apart their diet.

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