Surgery

The Division of Surgery Oral Health and Medical Imaging is responsible for delivering inpatient and outpatient surgical services and prevention and treatment dental health programs targeting youth and adults of the ACT community and surrounding region.  The aim is provide timely access to elective and emergency surgery, with a focus on quality patient-centred care, supported by evidence based practice.

Our services

The Division includes:

As well as various specialty surgical ward areas, outpatients departments (medical and nursing only).

Territory Wide Surgical Services Team

People admitted to ACT hospitals are classified as either emergency or elective patients. Emergency patients are patients whose condition suggests admission within twenty four hours. If your doctor feels that you require surgery, but it is not an emergency, you will then be placed on the waiting list to be admitted into hospital at a later date.

You are placed on the waiting list in order of medical priority. This enables us to make sure that the sickest patients are treated first. Your doctor will indicate on the booking form how urgently your surgery is required. In some cases this will be within days, in other cases within months. Mostly it will be months that you have to wait.

If you're waiting for surgery at either Canberra Hospital or Calvary Public Hospital and are concerned about your waiting time, call Surgery Access on (02) 6205 1122.

Waiting list information

ACT Health is committed to protecting and improving healthcare for residents of the ACT and surrounding region. ACT Health reflects that commitment by providing interested residents with the most complete and up to date waiting list information.

Consumer information

Consumer information for people on the ACT Elective Surgery Waiting List

ACT Surgery Access - Information for consumers on the ACT Elective Surgery Waiting List (February 2014)

Elective Surgery in the ACT

This locally made Surgical Safety Checklist video demonstrates how our operating teams at the Canberra Hospital carry out patient safety checks before surgery.

Patients play an important role in protecting their safety by understanding these safety checks for patient identification.

During your visit to hospital for surgery, many people will be involved in your health care treatment. Checking who you are is a very important way to make sure you receive the correct operation planned for you. You will be asked to say who you are many times during your hospital visit.

What you say will be checked against your patient identification band and hospital notes, test results and x-rays.

We understand that this may be frustrating at times, and perhaps seem strange or impersonal, but it is an important way of ensuring the safety and quality of the health care you receive. This is for your own safety to make sure everything is correct.

Staff in the operating room will do a final safety check just before your operation begins. To make sure that you are the correct patient and are having the correct operation on the correct part of your body they will ask questions to confirm your details.

You can also assist us to give you the best care possible by asking questions and speaking up if you have any concerns.

Definitions

Clinical urgency categories - The definitions of the urgency categories are based on the timeframe in which the procedure is clinically indicated as judged by your surgeon.

  • Category 1 - Procedures that are clinically indicated within 30 days.
  • Category 2 - Procedures that are clinically indicated within 90 days.
  • Category 3 - Procedures that are clinically indicated within 365 days.

Only your surgeon can determine which category you fit into based on your clinical need. If you're concerned about the category that you have been assigned, you should see your GP to discuss your options.

Elective surgery is defined as surgery for patients whose clinical condition requires a procedure that can be managed by placement on a waiting list.

Emergency patients are those whose clinical conditions indicate that they require admission to hospital within 24 hours (presently under review).

Median Waiting Times - the waiting time in days that lies in the middle of a group of waiting times arranged from lowest to highest.

Specialists are doctors who have extra qualifications in one or more clinical areas of practice. Some examples of specialists are gynaecologists, ophthalmologists and neurosurgeons.

Specialty is the term used to describe the particular field of medicine in which a specialist doctor practices eg. gynaecology, ophthalmology and neurosurgery.

Waiting time is the amount of time (reported in days, weeks or months) that a patient has waited for admission to hospital. It is measured from the day the hospital received the "Request for Admission" form for the patient until the patient is admitted for surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get on the Waiting List?

Your General Practitioner (GP) will provide you with a letter of referral to a Specialist. You will then need to book a consultation with this specialist. The specialist doctor then decides if you require surgery. Once the decision has been made for you to have surgery your doctor will complete a "Request for Admission" form and send it to the hospital.

When the hospital receives your form, you will receive a letter of notification that you have been placed on the waiting list.

When you are booked for surgery staff from the Surgical Bookings Office will then contact you with a date for your admission. They will try to give you four weeks notice in writing, or if you have advised the hospital that you are available at short notice they will call you should a cancellation occur.

Why am I waiting?

People admitted to ACT hospitals are classified as either emergency or elective patients. Emergency patients are patients whose condition suggests admission within twenty four hours. If your doctor feels that you require surgery, but it is not an emergency, you will then be placed on the waiting list to be admitted into hospital at a later date.

You are placed on the waiting list in order of medical priority. This enables us to make sure that the sickest patients are treated first. Your doctor will indicate on the booking form how urgently your surgery is required. In some cases this will be within days, in other cases within months. Mostly it will be months that you have to wait.

What influences my waiting time?

The length of time you wait for admission is affected by a number of factors, including the type of treatment you need, who your specialist doctor is and the hospital at which you are to be admitted.

Your waiting time may also be affected by:

  • Changing health needs of the community

  • Seasonal factors, for example in the winter months an influenza (flu) epidemic can affect the number of available beds for post surgery patients, and elective surgery will sometimes be deferred because of the high demand placed on beds for other urgent cases. Emergency surgery continues all year round.

  • Day Surgery is the term for patients waiting for treatment that do not require an overnight stay in hospital. Day surgery patients often have a shorter waiting time.

  • The number of patients referred to the specialist.

  • The amount of operating time the specialist doctor has allocated to him/her by the hospital.

What can I do if I am unhappy with my waiting time?

Discuss your individual situation with your GP. If you feel that your condition has deteriorated, your GP may be able to discuss your situation with your specialist or refer you back to your specialist for a reassessment of your condition. Your specialist may choose to alter your clinical urgency category, which may reduce your waiting time.

If I have Private Health insurance does this expedite my surgery?

Public Hospitals provide care solely on your medical need and having private health insurance will not expedite your admission to a Public Hospital.

If you have private health insurance or the ability to pay you may wish to consider having your procedure undertaken in a private hospital. If you are exploring this option it is advisable to discuss all of the fees with your specialist, and health fund. Not all surgery can be provided in private hospitals.

What do I need to do before my surgery?

Before your surgery you will be given a Pre-Admission Clinic appointment (PAC). At this time a nurse, anaesthetist and a doctor who is a member of your specialist’s team will assess you. This is to ensure that you are ready for your surgery. All patients are required to attend a PAC appointment before surgery; non-attendance will result in your surgery being cancelled.

Please allow up to two hours for this appointment, as you may need to have some tests, such as an x-ray, blood test, ECG etc.

If you have advised that you are available for short notice you will be given a PAC appointment so that you are ready to go ahead should a cancellation occur. This appointment lasts up to 6 months so you will not need to go again before your surgery.

PAC is an excellent opportunity for you to ask any medical questions that you may have thought of since seeing your specialist.

What happens if my surgery is postponed?

Sometimes it is necessary to defer your surgery. Should this occur you would be given priority for re-booking.

If you need to postpone your surgery it is important that you notify the Surgical Bookings Office before your surgery. If you do not notify the hospital and do not arrive for your surgery you will be cancelled and your Request for Admission paper work will be returned to your specialist.

Other questions?

If you have any other questions about admission to a public hospital in the ACT for elective surgery call the Territory Wide Surgical Service Team on 6205 1122.

Questions to ask your medical practitioner

  • Why do I need to see a specialist?
  • Why are you choosing this particular specialist?
  • Is this specialist experienced in performing the procedure I need?
  • How can I make an appointment with the specialist?
  • If I do need to be admitted to hospital, how long will I have to wait?
  • If the specialist you have referred me to has a lengthy waiting time for admission, is there another specialist you can recommend who can admit me sooner?
  • How do I find out how much it will cost to see the specialist?

What to ask your specialist

Most of the information below will most likely be discussed at the time of the consultation with your specialist. However the following questions may be helpful for you as a guide/checklist:

  • What may happen to me if I do not have the procedure you suggest?
  • Can you describe exactly what you intend to do?
  • How necessary is this procedure?
  • How urgent is this procedure?
  • How long will I have to wait for my procedure?
  • How long do you expect the procedure to take?
  • What type of anaesthetic (general or local) will I need to have?
  • What are the risks associated with the procedure?
  • What are the risks associated with the anaesthetic?
  • Will I need a blood transfusion?
  • Will you or someone else be performing the actual operation?
  • At which hospital will the operation be done?
  • Will I need any tests before the operation? What are they?
  • Is there anything I should or should not do before my operation?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • What happens after the operation? How can I expect to feel after the operation?
  • What sort of follow up care will I need after I leave hospital?
  • How long will I be away from work or unable to perform the routine tasks that I now do?
  • How much will it cost me? (operation, tests, post-op visits, total)
  • Are there any alternatives to the surgery for me?
  • What should I do if my condition gets worse while I am waiting for the surgery?

Contact us

If you're waiting for surgery at either Canberra Hospital or Calvary Public Hospital and are concerned about your waiting time, call Surgery Access on (02) 6205 1122.