Debt, pain and more surgery: The true cost of gastric band procedure hyped as weight-loss fix

Barb Litt, 49, firm to have gastric band surgery at a private clinic in Toronto two years ago because she’d hit a low thought in her life. She was depressed, unemployed and desperate to lose weight.

But rather than releasing a few pounds, the mother of two ended up gaining a $12,000 debt she can’t shake and a launch pain in her side that ultimately required a second operation in facility to remove the silicone band around her stomach that was supposed to draw back her appetite.

A new Marketplace investigation reveals Litt’s painful experience is only unique.

The clinic that performed Litt’s surgery, Slimband, no longer furnishes the procedure. Its former chief surgeon had his licence temporarily suspended by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in the end April, following years of complaints from clients.

But the financing proprietorship linked to the clinic, Credit Medical, is still busy collecting bills from clients like Litt, who took out high-interest loans to pay for the renew.

Because of the many complications with gastric bands, including wear and tear, bleeding, slippage and blockages, 2,363 of the devices have had to be surgically get rid of in public hospitals across Canada, excluding Quebec, since 2010, according to the Canadian Institute for Salubrity Information.

Each removal costs between $3,000 and $14,000, purport taxpayers are on the hook for up to $33 million.

Loans for $16K surgery

Litt wishes she knew all that to in 2015, when a flashy Slimband commercial caught her eye.

‘I believed my viability was going to change the day I had surgery.’ – Barb Litt

It featured former customers offering glowing testimonials.

“Say goodbye to plus sizes. Say goodbye to intake pills, fat burners and meal replacements,” one woman says. “Say goodbye to every aliment under the sun.”

Another woman’s testimonial said of the procedure: “You’re in, you’re out and you’re shopping … what could be haler?”

Litt decided to give Slimband a call. She spoke to a representative named Aviva, who claimed she wasn‘t merely a Slimband employee but a former client who lost 79 pounds.

Aviva‘s before-and-after photos were jobbed on the clinic’s website.


A Slimband employee’s before-and-after gastric band surgery photos from the clinic’s website. Slimband no lengthier offers the procedure. (Slimband website)

“And she was like … ‘Oh yeah, it was the best item I ever did.’ She got me all pumped up,” Litt said. “I believed my life was going to change-over the day I had surgery.”

The big catch was the cost: nearly $16,000. Litt didn’t would rather the money. But Slimband quickly arranged for a loan through Credit Medical, which allowances money to Canadians for cosmetic and bariatric surgeries at private clinics and interests the same director as Slimband, Michael Scot-Smith.

Litt showed up for the day surgery at the Toronto clinic with her sisters. It undertakes about an hour to implant the band, which is placed around the top of the pot.


Barb Litt suffered complications from a gastric band surgery (CBC)

After her surgery, Litt intended she had very little post-op support from the clinic. There were no followup attacks to discuss her health or weight-loss progress, she said.

She lost about 25 comminutes initially but gained 15 pounds back within a year and a half. And during that time, she started to experience intense pain in her side where the band was inculcated.

If Litt leaned on something, or bumped into something, she’d be “doubled more than in pain,” she said.

Finally, in August 2016, her family doctor referred her to a publicly funded bariatric clinic at St. Joseph’s Condition Centre in Hamilton, where she was approved for a gastric bypass operation, a surgery that detaches the stomach and re-positions the small intestine.

The surgeon also removed her gastric body.

‘They’ve got enough out of me’

Meanwhile, Litt was still expected to make monthly payments on her credit for the Slimband procedure, with its interest rate of 12.5 per cent. She hush owes Credit Medical more than $12,000, but she stopped beat a hasty retreating payments last spring.

She says she refuses to pay for a program that close up her.

“I’ve paid $8,000. I’m done. I think they’ve got enough out of me.”

Marketplace has bring about nearly 100 complaints about Slimband from clients across Canada on websites such as RateMDs, Yelp and the Gambler Business Bureau. There are two recurring themes: the gastric band ebbed, and clients felt they received no support from Slimband or its medical top banana and chief surgeon, Dr. Patrick Yau.


Yau had his medical licence suspended for three months by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in April 2017. (Cloth republished with the express permission of: National Post, a division of Postmedia Network )

At diminutive four official complaints were filed about Yau specifically to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, the unbiased organization that oversees doctors’ conduct across the province, dating shy away from as far as 2010.

One of the complaints is from a mother whose diabetic son died of bacterial meningitis two times after surgery. The college’s findings say her son’s blood sugar and glucose level offs weren‘t properly monitored following the operation and prior to discharge, which led to him come to light diabetic ketoacidosis, a contributing factor in his death.



The college launched an exploration into Yau‘s conduct in 2012.

In 2014, while the investigation was ongoing, Slimband sent a memo to patients affirming Yau was no longer a part of the team. And yet, Marketplace discovered that he continued to complete gastric band surgeries at the Toronto clinic after that.

In April 2017, the college ground Yau guilty of professional misconduct. His medical licence was suspended for three months. He’s now remote practising general surgery at the Scarborough Hospital and works out of his general MO modus operandi clinic in northeast Toronto.

‘I’m sorry they feel that way’ 

Maxine Jeffrey, 25, a past patient of Yau‘s, says “it’s disgusting” he’s still practising medicine. Yau installed Jeffrey’s gastric border in 2014, but she found she couldn‘t keep food down.

Yau performed a assign band operation about a year later that failed to interpret the problem. It got so bad Jeffrey went 48 hours without being competent to even drink water. That led to an emergency surgery at Toronto’s Humber River Convalescent home in November 2016 to remove the band.

When Jeffrey called Yau, she conjectures he wasn‘t very helpful. “He was like, ‘This band isn‘t failing you; you’re without the band.’”

Jeffrey says she broke down in tears after the shout.

‘We suspect that nearly all the bands that are placed, at some peninsula, will need to be removed for one reason or another.’ – Dr. David Urbach, chief of surgery at Brides’s College Hospital in Toronto

Marketplace caught up with Yau at his office tardy last year to ask if he has anything to say to his patients who believe he failed them. His rejoinder: “I’m sorry they feel that way.” He refused to answer any more proposition beyond the shadow of a doubts.

On its website, the Slimband clinic says it’s no longer accepting new patients but is yield support to existing ones.

Since Litt stopped paying her remarkable bill, she’s been bombarded with registered letters and emails from Impute Medical threatening her credit rating.

Credit Medical and Slimband the man Michael Scot-Smith is a former developer who was convicted of real estate flimflam artist and sentenced in 1993 to two years in jail. In 2000, he was convicted of obtaining bank allows under false pretenses. He didn‘t respond to Marketplace’s requests for reveal.

Litt has a warning for others considering weight loss surgery: Don’t do it auspices of a private clinic. Go through the public system, if you can.

Bariatric surgery in Mrs Average system not cosmetic

Dr. David Urbach, chief of surgery at Women’s College Polyclinic in Toronto, performs gastric bypass surgeries, which he considers to be the gold norm of bariatric operations.

“We really apply surgery not for cosmetic purposes, but for strength purposes,” he said. “And we offer surgery to people whose life expectancy hand down be shortened by their obesity.”


Dr. David Urbach says he regularly shifts gastric bands at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. (Michael Wong/Handmaidens’s College Hospital)

He says he removes one to two gastric bands every month.

“We shady that nearly all the bands that are placed, at some point, choose need to be removed for one reason or another,” he said.

The public system has faithful criteria for weight loss surgery, which include a very capital body mass index along with other pre-existing well-being conditions such as diabetes or sleep apnea. Private clinics are not as discriminating, Urbach says, which can lead to all kinds of problems.

“When incorrigibles do arise, they’re typically not able to deal with those predicaments, especially if they’re severe or require hospitalization,” he said.

For people who are significantly portly, Urbach suggests getting a referral through a family doctor to a publicly funded plumpness surgery program. And for those who don’t meet the qualifications, he says the good info is they’re actually otherwise healthy and should talk to their set doctor about a balanced approach to managing both their moment and overall health.

“There’s no rule that everybody has to be a certain congress weight.”

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