RALEIGH, N.C. — The demand for gastric bypass surgery has never been higher, but people in Wake County who want the surgery said their options are fading fast as yet another major hospital ends its program.
Donna Ferguson had gastric bypass surgery last May at Rex Hospital. Last year, she weighed 378 pounds. Now, she is 194 pounds lighter.
"There's nothing that hasn't changed," she said.
However, as of this fall, Rex Hospital will no longer offer the procedure.
"I just feel bad about the patient," said Dr. Michael Malik, who is one of two surgeons performing gastric bypass at Rex. "I have nothing bad to say about Rex Hospital. They've treated the patients who've had the surgery there. They've had the best of care."
Rex Hospital reports no serious complications. Officials said the surgery is complex and more suited for teaching hospitals. WakeMed made a similar decision last fall.
"It seems like in an area this size, it's just a shame it's becoming more restricted," Malik said.
Malik said he is exploring other options. For now, patients in Wake County will have to look at places like Duke or East Carolina -- all of which have waiting lists.
"The waiting list at teaching hospitals is years long. There are many of us who couldn't wait years to get into the program," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said she is glad she had the procedure when and where she did. She only hopes others get the same opportunity.
"It's made a new me," she said.
Patients who are scheduled for gastric bypass at Rex Hospital will still get the procedure. They will stop offering it Sept. 1. On another note, Franklin Regional Hospital is starting a gastric bypass program with surgeries beginning later this month.
The popularity of weight loss surgery is growing. In 1995, just 20,000 operations were performed in the United States. Last year, there were 103,000 operations. This year, 144,000 are projected.