Public hospital wait times – Why your address matters

By Brandon Taylor

5 minutes

25 November 2019

Where you live can have a big impact on your ability to get well.

You’ve heard of people choosing where to live based on school catchments, public transport options and crime rate. These things are often top of mind when considering location.

But interestingly, one of the most basic human needs – healthcare – is not usually considered.

Maybe this is because people don’t realise that in the public healthcare system, where you live can have an impact on how soon you can access certain surgeries.

Your local public hospital determines your local wait time

Patients in the public system are not able to choose their specialist or hospital like they can in the private system. Because the public referral system is based largely on catchment area, the public hospital nearest you is usually the one you must visit.

This means that if your local hospital has a long waiting list for the procedure you need, you may be stuck waiting through it.

These wait times can vary widely from one hospital to another. Perth median wait times for tonsillectomy, for example, range from one month to over a year long.

Public hospitals will always prioritise you during an emergency or if your condition is considered clinically dangerous – so there’s nothing to worry about if your health is in real danger.

However, for conditions that are not urgent, long wait times can apply.

With this in mind, it can be really helpful to know what the wait times are for common procedures at your local hospital.

So how long is your wait time?

We looked at five common elective surgeries to see how different the wait times really are in select suburbs across WA. Wait times were reported for the year ending December 2018.

These are median wait times, not averages. Median means that half of the people on the wait list waited longer and half waited shorter.

You’ll notice some hospitals report ‘too few surgeries’ rather than a wait time. This means that the hospital performed fewer than 10 surgeries in the year. Median wait times are only reported when 10 or more surgeries are performed.

Please note that the following wait times start after you see a specialist. There’s a separate wait list before you see a specialist called the ‘wait-to-wait’, but that’s another conversation.

Tonsillectomy wait times

Tonsillitis most commonly affects young children aged 5-15 because schools or child-care centres can be breeding grounds for the bacteria or virus that cause tonsillitis1.

A tonsillectomy, or surgical removal of tonsils, may be recommended by your doctor if you have had reoccurring, chronic or severe tonsillitis or complications from other issues with the tonsils.

The road to recovery may take longer than you think, depending on where you live.

Tonsillectomy wait times
Royal Perth Hospital: 25 days
Bentley Hospital: 43 days
Fremantle Hospital: 76 days
Osborne Park Hospital: 78 days
Fiona Stanley Hospital: 134 days
Geraldton Hospital: 131 days
St John of God Midland Public Hospital: 155 days
Busselton Health Campus: 176 days
Joondalup Health Campus: 183 days
Perth Children’s Hospital: 362 days
Rockingham General Hospital: 366 days


While you wait...

Untreated tonsillitis can lead to sore throats, sleepless nights and missed school days. In chronic tonsillitis, these symptoms can come back again and again for months, which can disrupt family life and performance in school. In acute tonsillitis, those swollen tonsils in the back of the throat can cause breathing difficulty.

A parent’s guide to tonsils

Learn more about tonsillitis and tonsillectomy in this handy guide.

Learn more

Myringoplasty/Tympanoplasty wait times

Both of these surgeries are used to repair a perforated eardrum.

Causes of perforated eardrum include head trauma while playing sport, inserting a cotton bud too far, and from air pressure changes when you catch a flight2.

Myringoplasty/Tympanoplasty wait times
Royal Perth Hospital: 126 days
Fremantle Hospital: 117 days
Osborne Park Hospital: 120 days
Fiona Stanley Hospital: 187 days
Geraldton Hospital: 123 days
Bentley Hospital: Too few surgeries
St John of God Midland Public Hospital: Too few surgeries
Busselton Health Campus: Too few surgeries
Joondalup Health Campus: Too few surgeries
Perth Children’s Hospital: Too few surgeries
Rockingham General Hospital: Too few surgeries

While you wait...

If left untreated, a perforated eardrum can sometimes repair itself. But while it’s healing, you may suffer hearing loss in the affected ear3.

If you can’t hear correctly, you can’t listen and learn correctly. This means that for young kids, prolonged hearing loss can lead to trouble speaking.

A perforated eardrum is also vulnerable to infection, particularly if you get water in it. If your doctor has recommended surgery, there’s a chance of infection or complications until the eardrum is repaired.

Myringotomy wait times

A myringotomy is a surgery that relieves pressure and fluid that builds up inside the ear during an ear infection. 

This one is common in kids – just like tonsillectomies – because kids under 10 years old are more likely to get ear infections.

Myringotomy wait times
Geraldton Hospital: 49 days
Joondalup Health Campus: 63 days
Fiona Stanley Hospital: 94 days
St John of God Midland Public Hospital: 139 days
Royal Perth Hospital: Too few surgeries
Osborne Park Hospital: Too few surgeries
Bentley Hospital: Too few surgeries
Fremantle Hospital: Too few surgeries
Busselton Health Campus: Too few surgeries
Rockingham General Hospital: Too few surgeries
Perth Children’s Hospital: Too few surgeries

While you wait...

Pain, trouble hearing, and a chance of re-infection can all come with an untreated ear infection4-5.

Septoplasty wait times

A septoplasty is the surgery required to fix a deviated septum, which is when the divider between your two nostrils is bent.

Septoplasty wait times
Bentley Hospital: 62 days
Osborne Park Hospital: 115 days
Fremantle Hospital: 121 days
St John of God Midland Public Hospital: 186 days
Geraldton Hospital: 204 days
Joondalup Health Campus: 236 days
Royal Perth Hospital: 260 days
Fiona Stanley Hospital: 369 days
Busselton Health Campus: Too few surgeries
Rockingham General Hospital: Too few surgeries
Perth Children’s Hospital: Too few surgeries

While you wait...

A severely bent septum can cause regular sinus infections and breathing difficulties if not treated.

ACL reconstruction wait times

An ACL reconstruction is the surgery required to repair the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, an important ligament in the knee.

We usually hear about sports players injuring an ACL and sitting out for the rest of the season. They get medical treatment almost straight away, and still have to wait that long to get back to work.

Those of us who aren’t footy stars could be unlucky enough to wait as long as 150 days for a surgery.

ACL reconstruction wait times
St John of God Midland Public Hospital: 42 days
Joondalup Health Campus: 46 days
Busselton Health Campus: 54 days
Royal Perth Hospital Wellington Street: 70 days
Fremantle Hospital: 75 days
Rockingham General Hospital: 78 days
Osborne Park Hospital: 84 days
Geraldton Hospital: 153 days
Bentley Hospital: Too few surgeries
Fiona Stanley Hospital: Too few surgeries
Perth Children’s Hospital: Too few surgeries

While you wait...

This can really throw a spanner in the works when it comes to work, school or family life. Not to mention the medical consequences of leaving an ACL injury untreated. If left too long, ACL injuries can lead to chronic knee problems such as ACL deficiency, which can cause your knee to buckle or give out, sometimes with pain and swelling8.

Skip the public wait list

Make sure you and your family are seen to quickly with HBF Hospital cover

Get covered in minutes

1. Mayo Clinic, Tonsillitis -
2. Mayo Clinic, Ruptured Eardrum -
3. Ent UK, Perforated Eardrum Myringoplasty -
4. WebMD, What is a myringotomy -
5. Health Line, Otitis Prevention -
6. Mayo Clinic, Deviated Septum -
7. UW Health, ACL injury: Should I Have Knee Surgery -
8. US library of medicine, untreated ACL injury -

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