The Western Australian police personnel are offered half the cost of gastric-banding surgery, but there are not many takers in the force, said a spokesperson.
Actually the surgery costs around $6000 whereas the reimbursement does not exceed $2000. Still it is a substantial help, but not many come forward, it seems.
AdvertisementA spokesman for the Police Commissioner says out of the 5,700 officers in the state, only a handful have taken up the initiative since it was introduced late last year.
He says officers have to undergo a comprehensive health check prior to the procedure to qualify for the subsidy.
Under laparoscopic gastric banding surgery, a band, similar to the size of a wrist watch, is fastened around the upper stomach to create a small pouch which restricts the amount of food that can be consumed.
Though the provision has been for over a year, only now it is becoming public, triggering varied reactions.
Public Health Association of Australia president Mike Daube slammed the move, saying he was shocked that police, who were meant to be among the fittest and most active members of society, would be candidates for obesity surgery.
"If police officers are so obese that they need gastric banding surgery, they're not going to be very effective coppers," said Prof Daube, a former WA Health Department director-general.
"We need our police to be fit, not fat."
But WA Police executive director Greg Italiano defended the initiative, saying the subsidy was a worthwhile investment in improving the health of police officers who were suffering obesity-related chronic illness and would inevitably save the force money.
Police Union president Russell Armstrong says it is a fantastic initiative.
"I think gastric banding is a fantastic breakthrough for people who are overweight and that's why we certainly give the commissioner all the credit under the sun for doing such a fantastic thing for his staff," he said
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