Weight-loss surgery center at Shelby Baptist earns approval

ALABASTER &8212; The bariatric surgery center at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster became the state&8217;s second facility to receive accreditation from the American College of Surgeons.

&8220;We&8217;re very proud of that,&8221; said Dr. Richard Stahl, general surgeon and director of bariatric surgery. &8220;This has been a lot of work for myself and the people that work with me in the hospital and in my office. They really have shown a great deal of dedication to these patients.&8221;

The American Society for Bariatric Surgery, which sponsors a similar accreditation program, reports 177,600 Americans with morbid obesity had bariatric surgery in 2006.

Bariatric, or weight loss, procedures limit the amount of food the stomach can hold by surgically reducing its size. Some also alter the digestion process.

Stahl said with its new accreditation, Shelby Baptist qualifies to admit patients seeking weight-loss surgeries who were previously ineligible.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which only recently recognized morbid obesity as a disease and weight-loss surgery an appropriate cure, has limited approved sites to those with accreditation from ACS or ASBS.

The accreditation process took almost one and one half years, said Stahl. It started with lengthy paper applications and a $10,000 program fee and finally culminated in a site visit in which an ACS representative monitored and used Shelby Baptist&8217;s bariatric center.

As part of its ongoing accreditation, Shelby Baptist must report outcomes on all patients undergoing weight-loss surgery at its facility to the ACS Bariatric Sugery database. &8220;It&8217;s a constant quality improvement program,&8221; said Stahl, adding another component to the program is continued education.

He estimates the center&8217;s four bariatric surgeons treat a total of 150 patients annually, a number he said has plummeted over the past few years because of increased insurance requirements.

Still, Stahl said, &8220;Gastric bypass surgery and laparoscopic surgery are complex surgeries that require long-term care and follow up. The hospital has been dedicated to this program. We feel we can show results that are equivalent to the best in the world.&8221;

Shelby Baptist will host another site visit to renew its accreditation when the current one expires May 18, 2010