The Neuchâtel Hospital (HNe) and the Neuchâtel Centre for Psychiatry (CNP) hope that their combined resources will allow the new centre to standardize procedures and guarantee high standards of treatment quality for Switzerland's increasing number of obese citizens.
11 percent of the Swiss population is obese, according to figures from the hospital. In a statement, Dr Marc Worreth, head of surgery at the centre, described it as an "epidemic" in Switzerland and other Western countries.
"The proportion of obese Swiss people has not stopped rising since the OMS recognized obesity as an illness in 1997," Pierre-Emmanuel Buss, the hospital's communication officer, told The Local. He said that the increase was particularly alarming because of the rise in cases among adolescents and young adults, as well as those classified as "severely obese".
The new Medical and Surgical Centre of Obesity aims to take care of patients in a "multidisciplinary way", Buss said, with doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, dieticians and surgeons working together and with the patient to determine the best course of treatment in order to ensure a healthy lifestyle change.
"Surgery is not just a final resort," explained Buss. "The preparatory phase is very important, allowing us to inform and prepare the patient."
Before surgery can take place, patients will typically have around 20 appointments and be monitored for one to two years, to ensure they are ready.
The centre has already treated over 100 patients from the French-speaking cantons, but after its official inauguration, planned for Tuesday, March 22nd, hospital chiefs are expecting at least a 50 percent increase. Currently ten specialists are working at the centre, which does not yet have fixed premises either, but more will be recruited in the coming months.
Buss told The Local that changing public perceptions of obesity was not among the goals of the centre, but they did hope to change the perception of how the condition should be treated, which should "absolutely be in a multidisciplinary way".