Lifestyle

Valley Medical Center's bariatric center to close

Dr. Gabriel Alperovich performs surgery at Valley Medical Center’s Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center. Alperovich is medical director at the center, which will close Oct. 10. The center specializes in gastric bypass and lap-band surgeries. - File photo
Dr. Gabriel Alperovich performs surgery at Valley Medical Center’s Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center. Alperovich is medical director at the center, which will close Oct. 10. The center specializes in gastric bypass and lap-band surgeries.
— image credit: File photo

After several years of operations and more than 600 patients served, Valley Medical Center’s Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center is closing.

The center stopped performing surgeries last month and will close Oct. 10.

In an e-mail, Pamela Fowler, a Valley Medical spokeswoman, wrote that “Valley Medical Center made the business decision after careful consideration of the current health-care climate and the demand for by-pass surgeries.”

The center simply wasn’t “a good business venture,” said Don Jacobson, president of Valley Medical Center’s Board of Commissioners.

“I guess the need wasn’t there, and there wasn’t enough demand to support it,” Jacobson said.

As of spring 2007, the center had served about 600 patients. But the number of patients has been declining.

In an interview last spring, Gabriel Alperovich, the center’s medical director, said the center averaged 20 patients a month in its early days. But last April Alperovich said the center was down to four to six cases a month.

In its early days, Fowler said Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center was one of the few of its kind offered by hospitals or surgical centers. But she said the last few years have “seen a proliferation of hospitals and service centers making bariatrics core to their services.”

The increased competition meant fewer patients at Valley Medical Center. Fowler said patient numbers weren’t helped any by insurance companies, which often don’t cover bariatric services, or the economy’s downturn.

“Fewer and fewer were willing to self-pay,” Fowler said.

Furthermore, Fowler said Valley Medical Center no longer sees bariatrics as a “core” of its future medical services.

Still, Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center enjoyed success while it lasted. The center was ranked No. 1 in Washington in 2007 and in the top 10 percent in the nation for bariatric surgery by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings organization. The rankings were based on outcomes from gastric bypass and laparoscopic procedures in hospitals in 17 states during 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center had one of the lowest complication rates in the nation for bariatric surgery. But complications did exist. One patient died while undergoing bariatric surgery there and others suffered from complications or were unsatisfied with the amount of weight lost.

Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center featured a multidisciplinary treatment focused on diet, exercise, mental health, surgery, and education.

Surgeries included gastric bypass and lap-band. Both reduce the size of the patient’s stomach so he or she can comfortably eat small portions.

Fowler said the center will continue providing post-surgical patient care until it closes. Valley Medical Center will also continue providing limited follow-up care and monthly support meetings for post-surgical patients until mid 2009.

Fowler said Valley Medical Center has notified patients of the Washington Bariatric and Weight Loss Center’s closure and has informed them of options available at other hospitals. Those seeking additional information can contact a case manager at 425-251-5111.

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