She lost about 25 pounds initially but gained 15 pounds back within a year and a half. And during that time, she started to experience intense pain in her side where the band was implanted.
If Litt leaned on something, or bumped into something, she’d be “doubled over in pain,” she said.
Finally, in August 2016, her family doctor referred her to a publicly funded bariatric clinic at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Hamilton, where she was approved for a gastric bypass operation, a surgery that divides the stomach and re-positions the small intestine.
The surgeon also removed her gastric band.
‘They’ve got enough out of me’
Meanwhile, Litt was still expected to make monthly payments on her loan for the Slimband procedure, with its interest rate of 12.5 per cent. She still owes Credit Medical more than $12,000, but she stopped making payments last spring.
She says she refuses to pay for a program that failed her.
“I’ve paid $8,000. I’m done. I think they’ve got enough out of me.”
Marketplace has found nearly 100 complaints about Slimband from clients across Canada on websites such as RateMDs, Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. There are two recurring themes: the gastric band failed, and clients felt they received no support from Slimband or its medical director and chief surgeon, Dr. Patrick Yau.
At least four official complaints were filed about Yau specifically to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, the independent organization that oversees doctors’ conduct across the province, dating back as far as 2010.
One of the complaints is from a mother whose diabetic son died of bacterial meningitis two days after surgery. The college’s findings say her son’s blood sugar and glucose levels weren‘t properly monitored following the operation and prior to discharge, which led to him developing diabetic ketoacidosis, a contributing factor in his death.
The college launched an investigation into Yau‘s conduct in 2012.
In 2014, while the investigation was ongoing, Slimband sent a memo to patients saying Yau was no longer a part of the team. And yet, Marketplace discovered that he continued to perform gastric band surgeries at the Toronto clinic after that.
In April 2017, the college found Yau guilty of professional misconduct. His medical licence was suspended for three months. He’s now back practising general surgery at the Scarborough Hospital and works out of his general practice clinic in northeast Toronto.
‘I’m sorry they feel that way’
Maxine Jeffrey, 25, a former patient of Yau‘s, says “it’s disgusting” he’s still practising medicine. Yau installed Jeffrey’s gastric band in 2014, but she found she couldn‘t keep food down.
Yau performed a second band operation about a year later that failed to solve the problem. It got so bad Jeffrey went 48 hours without being able to even drink water. That led to an emergency surgery at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital in November 2016 to remove the band.
When Jeffrey called Yau, she says he wasn‘t very helpful. “He was like, ‘This band isn‘t failing you; you’re failing the band.’”
Jeffrey says she broke down in tears after the call.