ALBANY -- The options for weight loss surgery in Southwest Georgia have just increased in terms of quality of care at a more affordable cost.
Palmyra Medical Center announced Tuesday that the Bariatric Institute of Southwest Georgia along with Medical Director Dr. John Bagnato have been named an American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.
The designation recognizes programs with a demonstrated track record of favorable outcomes in bariatric surgery.
"This designation is a designation of teamwork," Bagnato said. "It proves we are not only doing a good job, but that we are doing a great job."
The Bariatric Institute, in order to earn the designation, underwent an extensive site inspection process during which all aspects of the program's surgical processes were closely examined and data on health outcomes was collected.
The ASMBS Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence program was created to recognize bariatric surgery centers that perform well and to help surgeons and hospitals continue to improve the quality and safety of care provided.
The designation also means that residents in Southwest Georgia have more options for getting the procedure done closer to home where their insurance policy will cover it, officials say.
"It's better overall for our patients. Now the patients have an at-home choice," said Amy Grasman, director of the Bariatric Institute. "Patients have (previously) had to drive out of state. It will increase our patient numbers."
After all, the designation is really more about the patients, Bagnato said.
"It means that the hospital will be able to participate in the insurance program, but it means more to patients than it does to us," he said.
Kendra Wilson, a police officer with the Albany Police Department, had the procedure done earlier in the year. Since then, she has not regretted it.
"I wanted to improve my health," she said. "The experience with Bagnato and his staff was terrific. They are very deserving (of the designation). I would recommend them."
The Surgical Review Corporation formulates and established the rigorous standards with which Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence must comply. They inspect and evaluate each candidate, and upon review recommends approval for those physicians and facilities whose practices and outcomes qualify them for designation.
A report released in 2007 by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality indicates that the number of bariatric surgeries has grown from 16,000 procedures performed in 1992 to 170,000 in 2005.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 66 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Morbid obesity is closely correlated with a number of conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Bariatric surgery can help patients manage such issues.
"It's a good thing for patients," Bagnato said. "Being able to put diabetes in remission is no small thing. These patients are much, much healthier."