Weight Loss Surgery Wait Times in Canada

wait times in Canada for bariatric surgery

Average wait times for bariatric surgery in Canada will range from 1.5 years to almost 9 years. 

Please note, that this information represents the best available information we have. This information assumes the patient is starting their journey today. How long until you meet all the requirements in order to have surgery.

For example: Patient needs to wait 85 days to consult with a bariatric provider. Then they will need to undergo and successfully complete the bariatric program (which can take years). Once completed, they can then schedule for surgery, and thus wait for your surgical times.

Province Procedures covered by health insurance Estimated Time to Surgery
Alberta Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Gastric Bypass Surgery
7 to 10 years
British Columbia Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
2 to 4 years
Manitoba Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
No Options
New Brunswick Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
Gastric Band (all types covered, but not all are performed in the province)
3 to 5 years
Newfoundland and Labrador (no surgeons listed) Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
Gastric Band
No data
Nova Scotia Gastric Sleeve 3 to 5 years
Ontario Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
Initial appointment: 6 months to 1 year
Surgery: 2 to 3 years
Prince Edward Island (no surgeons listed) Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass (covered, but performed out of province)
No data
Quebec Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
Gastric Band
3 to 15 years
Saskatchewan Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
2 to 3 years

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What is Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Gastric sleeve surgery, or sleeve gastrectomy, is a weight loss surgery that involves the removal of a large portion of the stomach, leaving a banana-shaped “sleeve” that is significantly smaller. This reduction in stomach size limits food intake and reduces the feeling of hunger, leading to weight loss.

The surgery also impacts gut hormones and metabolism, contributing to weight loss and improvements in obesity-related conditions. Unlike some other bariatric procedures, it doesn’t involve rerouting the intestines and is generally considered less complex. This procedure is irreversible and requires a lifelong commitment to dietary changes and healthy lifestyle habits.

What is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery, specifically Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, is a significant weight loss surgery that involves two main steps. First, the surgeon creates a small pouch at the top of the stomach, which becomes the only part of the stomach that receives food. This greatly limits the amount of food that can be comfortably eaten and digested. Second, the surgeon connects this new pouch directly to the middle part of the small intestine (the jejunum), bypassing the rest of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine (the duodenum).

This procedure not only restricts the amount of food that can be eaten but also significantly decreases the absorption of calories and nutrients, leading to weight loss. Additionally, it alters gut hormones, which can reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness. Gastric bypass can be particularly effective for people with obesity and is often recommended for those with obesity-related health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Why is it So Difficult to have the Surgery in Canada?

It is quite challenging to access bariatric surgery in Canada. Very few resources such as money and equipment are made available to treat this condition. Some provinces go as far a not even recognizing obesity as a service to be insured in their healthcare plans. Moreover, those that do consider the disease as insurable have problems providing timely access to patients for a host of reasons.

With so many patients needing the surgery and so few resources, this creates a backlog of patients waiting for the operation. It is estimated that it can take an average of 5 years for patients to get a bariatric surgery done and in some cases, it takes eight years. Research from three of the most significant bariatric surgery centers in Quebec showed a bottle-neck approach when dealing with patients requiring bariatric surgeries.

As patients received their surgeries and left the waiting list, others were moved forward according to their scheme. This results in about five stages of waiting for bottlenecks. The bottle-neck procedure consists of:

  1. Office consultation request
  2. Bariatric questionnaire and surgery information kit sent to patients
  3. Information received, and patients screened, waiting to see a bariatric surgeon
  4. Patients evaluated by surgeon and surgery approved
  5. Surgery performed

What is Wait Time?

When considering waiting times for any form of surgery, it is essential to specify what exactly is waiting time. When exactly does a patient enter the queue and at what part of the queue is the agreed-upon waiting time? According to definitions of waiting times, the waiting time for surgery starts when a request for admission is submitted by the surgeon’s office to the office that accepts admissions in the hospital. This definition, however, does not bode well when defining waiting time for bariatric surgeries. This is best defined as the time it takes to cover process 1-5 as shown above.

The saddest part of all this is that some patients die while waiting to undergo bariatric surgery. Assuming that 2-4% of the Canadian adult population is morbidly obese, an estimate of those requiring bariatric surgery is about 600 thousand to 1.2 million.

Only about 150-250 bariatric operations a year were conducted in the most important hospitals in Canada. If resources are not pumped into combating the obesity issue in Canada, this situation is set to worsen as obesity is on the rise. Furthermore, the longer patients are left untreated, the more likely their chance to develop even more complications and related conditions.

Studies demonstrate just how long the waiting period for Bariatric surgeries in Canada is, averaging at five years.

When this is compared to the Fraser Institute and the Wait Times Alliance, reasonable surgery wait times are 18 months for cosmetic surgery and eight weeks for cancer surgery.

The inappropriate wait time system for bariatric surgery in Canada stems from a lack of capacity in Canadian health centers and hospitals.

We Need Something to Change

With all the problems a prolonged waiting time for bariatric surgeries comes with, it is safe to say that something needs to change. For those that are currently morbidly obese, there is no harm in trying out other avenues for weight loss as a solution is sought. A lifestyle of healthy eating and an active lifestyle will go a long way in trying to manage these conditions and even prevent them in the long term.

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