Obese patients stuck at Middlemore Hospital for months, nowhere for them to go

Four obese patients have been stuck at Middlemore Hospital for months because there's nowhere suitable for them to go. One man spent 248 days in hospital. 

The Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) says this highlights the obesity crisis in the area, and that more resources are desperately needed on prevention.

Newshub counted 19 takeaway shops in just one block at Manukau's Otara shopping centre.

"It's cheaper to buy fried chicken, it's only a dollar," one person says.

Cheap junk food that's easy to get; that's a big reason there's an obesity crisis in south Auckland. 

And it's clogging up Middlemore Hospital and costing us a fortune.

"Everything from the equipment we have has to be upscaled there might be more staff needed to move people safely," CMDHB chair Mark Gosche told Newshub.

Counties Manukau has a population of just over half a million people. Of those, more than 53 percent are considered overweight, while 36,000 are morbidly obese - twice as many as any other DHB.

Gosche said we need to focus on prevention.

"We have to have a community response to that so people can eat more healthy," he told Newshub. "They can exercise, they can do all the things that will prevent this from happening, but that's not something today allows for."

He said that's because we have less time and money - food poverty being a big driver.

The Auckland City Mission on Monday revealed thousands of Auckland families are forced to feed themselves on less than $7 per meal.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) nutrition professor Elaine Rush said junk food has become the new norm because we're bombarded with advertisements we can't resist and restrictions are needed.

"The price of fruit and vegetables has continued to go up and who can afford it? Really for $7 a meal all you can buy is calories."

Mother of five Michelle Potoru helps families overcome another barrier - knowing how to prepare a healthier meal.

If you can drive through a drive-thru and sit there for 15 or 20 mins waiting for your meal to be ordered, that's how long it takes to even make macaroni cheese or something as simple as fresh healthy food for our children."

Health Minister Dr David Clark said we could soon see more cash for obesity prevention.