A Whanganui surgeon is furious that two morbidly obese women are unable to receive funding for weight-loss surgery in New Zealand, and will go to South Korea for the operation despite health warnings.
Wellington woman Lynda Sim weighs about 160kg and has Type 2 diabetes, while Jasmin Sciascia, from Whanganui, weighs almost 200kg.
Neither are able to get the $35,000 funding for surgery in New Zealand to reduce the size of their stomachs and will have the operations done free under a deal with the Korea Tourism Organisation.
Dr Clive Solomon says he has grave fears for the safety of the women, who will fly home after the operation about 10 days later. He is concerned at the risk they may develop deep vein thrombosis during the 11-hour flight.
Dr Solomon - who is also a member of the Whanganui District Health Board - says there is funding for the surgery in New Zealand.
"This is a medical patient, as is the lady in Wellington. These are not people looking for cosmetic surgery - this is life-saving surgery.
"This nation should be hanging its head in shame that South Korea should be offering life-saving surgery to New Zealand ... it's just disgusting.
Dr Solomon has advocated for Ms Sciascia for the past year and is critical of the DHB, saying it is aware of her plight.
"This DHB has, frankly, sat on its heels and done nothing, despite numerous appeals and letters and correspondence. The money is available and the CEO of this organisation is just blocking it for whatever reason."
Women determined to go
Ms Sim says she is desperate for the surgery and fears that without it she will not see her teenage son grow up.
Ms Sciascia says without the operation, she has no future and has been told could be dead before her 30th birthday.
She says she can understand Dr Solomon's concerns over having such an operation within 48 hours of landing in South Korea, but says they are going to go anyway.
The women leave for South Korea on 7 February.