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HBF releases public & private wait times report

How long will you wait for elective surgery?

Author Alex Wilson
Date 9 Nov 2018
Time to read 2 minutes

For the first time, not-for-profit health fund HBF, has compared comprehensive data on the wait times for elective surgery in Australian public and private hospitals.

The report uses data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the WA Department of Health and newly obtained private hospital data, to compare the end-to-end journey for an elective surgery patient in both healthcare systems.

HBF CEO, John Van Der Wielen, said the purpose of the report is to help consumers make informed decisions about their healthcare, “The Western Australian public health system does a great job in emergency services and the new infrastructure in WA is world class.

“It is, however, critical that Western Australians also understand how long they can expect to wait for elective surgery, from the time they visit their GP, to the time they’re admitted for surgery,” Mr Van Der Wielen said.

“Public wait times reported by the media frequently do not reflect the full patient journey, and there is currently no centralised data source for consumers to compare their estimated wait times in public and private hospitals,” he said.

Whilst it’s no secret that the main advantage of private healthcare is the ability to choose a surgeon and to see them relatively quickly, current reporting makes it unclear just how much more quickly.

“Fragmented wait times data is an issue because with positive perceptions of the public system at an all-time high, and affordability an increasing concern, more people are dropping their private cover which places greater pressure on the public system, increasing public wait times further,” Mr Van Der Wielen said.

HBF’s comparison of public and private wait times considers the end-to-end patient journey, from the initial GP visit to receiving surgery.

Currently the ‘wait time’ reported by the AIHW in major reports such as the Elective Surgery Waiting Times report refers only to the time between placement on the waiting list and admission to surgery - omitting the first part of the journey.

By compiling data that includes the ‘wait-to-wait’ and ‘wait time’, the HBF report paints a more realistic picture of the overall wait times for public and private patients.

Estimated wait-to-wait and wait times for public and private hospitals for common procedures such as a tonsillectomy and a knee replacement are reflected in the graphs below. 


Median time between first GP appointment and first specialist appointment. Wait-to-wait is rarely reported in the media.


Wait time

Median time between decision to treat with surgery and admission to hospital for surgery.

Knee replacement wait time


Tonsillectomy wait time


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