Patients needing tonsils out waiting more than two years for outpatient appointment

Lottie Twyford 15 June 2021 62
Ambulance driving towards Canberra Hospital

Some patients in the ACT have been waiting for an outpatients’ appointment for more than two years. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Concerns about the wait time for a simple surgery to remove her son’s tonsils, adenoids and grommets has led to one Canberra woman seeking community funding to go through the private hospital system instead.

A spokesperson for Canberra Health Services confirmed the current average wait time for the 3199 people waiting for an outpatient appointment to be categorised is two years and five months.

When mother Sandy Winters-Scheerlinck learned of this, she decided it was unacceptably long.

Her son, Xander, suffers sleep problems, hearing loss, speech delays and behavioural issues because of problems associated with his tonsils, grommets and adenoids.

As a parent, she says it can be very stressful to hear three-year-old Xander struggling to breathe at night.

“The impact on his speech development has also been quite distressing,” says Sandy.

“Kids can be brutal and we didn’t want to have to wait until he started school.”

Toddler Xander playing with balls

Three-year-old Xander suffers breathing, hearing and sleeping difficulties, as well as behavioral issues, because of his tonsils, adenoids and grommets. Photo: GoFundMe.

When Sandy first spoke to Canberra Hospital last year, she was advised of this two-year wait so made the decision to go private instead. Only six months after calling the ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, they had an appointment. Four weeks later, surgery was booked in.

Because Sandy was unwilling to wait, to get herself over the line financially she turned to a GoFundMe page.

“Initially, I was embarrassed to put up my hand for help, but once I received the final date for surgery I needed to get myself over the line for manageable borrowing,” she says.

Xander’s tonsils, adenoids and grommets were removed in a surgical procedure on 8 June. He is now recovering well, much to Sandy’s relief.


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A spokesperson for Canberra Health Services (CHS) explained that wait times for such surgeries vary in line with clinical urgency. Urgent category-one cases are seen before others.

Once on the waitlist for ENT surgery, an acceptable wait-time is categorised as within 30 days for category one, 90 days for category two, and 365 days for category three.

Currently, the average wait time for category-one elective cases is between a few days and a few weeks, once seen by a specialist. The current median wait time for category two is 63 days, and for category three it’s 231 days.

However, before being categorised, patients must be seen at an outpatients’ appointment, the order of which is determined by the referral from the patient’s GP.

The spokesperson explained that COVID-19 impacted wait times because many non-urgent appointments were cancelled between March and June 2020.

Specifically, 105 tonsillectomies were delayed as a direct result of the cessation of non-essential surgery between March and June 2020 due to COVID-19.


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Yet the ACT Government subsequently funded 107 tonsillectomies to take place in the private system, as well as an extra 56 to take place in extraordinary sessions at CHS.

According to the spokesperson, this has been helped by several CHS otolaryngology health and neck specialists who have committed time outside of their usual hours to assist, including on weekends and during holiday periods.

The ACT Government is also funding additional outpatient appointments in order to begin to clear the backlog of people waiting for these surgical procedures. As of early June 2021, more than 4000 additional outpatients appointments had been completed under this program.

In June 2020, there was a total of 428 people on the surgical waiting list. At April 2021, this number had dropped to 80.

Alongside COVID-19 related delays, the CHS spokesperson explained there is a high demand for operating theatres at Canberra Hospital, Calvary Public and private hospitals for emergency surgeries.

The impact of this flows on and affects the number of ear, nose and throat surgeries that can be performed each week in the ACT.

CHS recommends anyone who is waiting for elective surgery should contact their medical professional to seek advice from the Territory Wide Surgical Services team on 02 5124 9889.


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62 Responses to Patients needing tonsils out waiting more than two years for outpatient appointment
Alicia Conley Alicia Conley 4:43 pm 13 Jun 21

Liberals on a local level people.

Get them in

Marisa Navarro Marisa Navarro 4:43 pm 12 Jun 21

Linda Navarro i’ll just keep them!

Paige Johnson Paige Johnson 3:13 pm 12 Jun 21

Why though? Shortage of staff/surgeon? I’m genuinely curious to know why.

Crystal Darmody Crystal Darmody 9:02 am 12 Jun 21

All I can say is travel to NSW, will be done much more quickly. Goulburn offer ENT services without a 2 year wait.

    Kimmy Hunter Kimmy Hunter 10:16 pm 14 Jun 21

    Crystal Darmody if you live in Canberra they don’t accept you

    Crystal Darmody Crystal Darmody 6:06 am 15 Jun 21

    Kimmy Hunter

    I'm currently in Sydney with my son and yes I'm an ACT resident. Not for an ENT but a service that is limitedly available in Canberra. I was prepared to travel for a faster outcome

    Kimmy Hunter Kimmy Hunter 9:08 am 15 Jun 21

    Well your very lucky because I had a family member told they can’t access nsw health and had treatment refused

    Crystal Darmody Crystal Darmody 9:52 pm 15 Jun 21

    Kimmy Hunter that is sad, sorry to hear

Rosemary Rummery Rosemary Rummery 11:27 pm 11 Jun 21

Tonsils vs throat Cancer

Chrissie Whitton Wiggins Chrissie Whitton Wiggins 11:23 pm 11 Jun 21

Nick Wiggins read the comments 🤦🏽‍♀️😭

Alexandra Feeney Alexandra Feeney 10:05 pm 11 Jun 21

Emma May Finch better join the queue 😒

Mazzie Woodward Mazzie Woodward 8:34 pm 11 Jun 21

Stop voting for ACT Labor - simple!

Lisa Rouse Lisa Rouse 6:32 pm 11 Jun 21

What a load of rubbish!!!!

My son is 17, has tonsillitis, on average, every 3 months, trying to complete Year 12, and we were told he’s category 3, and the wait is 6 YEARS!!!!!! WTF!!!

Richie Thomson Richie Thomson 4:16 pm 11 Jun 21

If you want to skip the lengthy wait for an initial appointment through outpatients clinic. I suggest booking an appointment through a private specialist which will obviously cost money but will fast stream you onto the public waiting list for operating. The only variable factor is the wait time for operating as each patient case is triaged therefore prioritised on wait list individually. There are some private specialists that operate in the public system even if they do initial appointment privately, you just need to find out which do so.

    Lucinda McIntyre Lucinda McIntyre 7:01 pm 11 Jun 21

    Yep and then wait 2 years for your number to come up.

    Bek Clark Bek Clark 3:55 pm 12 Jun 21

    Lucinda it depends on the category; and while it was a different specialty I can confirm, private specialist consult with a doctor who operates in the public system, and my offending body part was gone 33 days later. Cost me the price of the consult.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 4:08 pm 11 Jun 21

Third world health system

Aaron Bond Aaron Bond 4:06 pm 11 Jun 21

Kellee Bond haven’t you been waiting for like 5?

    Kellee Bond Kellee Bond 4:12 pm 11 Jun 21

    Aaron Bond referred to an ENT in 2015 and only now just told my case isn’t serious enough to ever get to the top of the public list so go private instead 🥴

Simon Kelly Simon Kelly 3:59 pm 11 Jun 21

But war memorial gets $500 million extension.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 7:18 pm 11 Jun 21

    Simon Kelly but you voted for a 1 billion dollar tram and another 2 billion + tram on the pipeline

    Stuart Cater Stuart Cater 8:26 am 12 Jun 21

    Simon the War Memorial is from federal government funding and nothing to do with the ACT budget.

Elissa Jane Elissa Jane 2:33 pm 11 Jun 21

I’ve been waiting over 5 years since getting the referral. The first referral got lost .

Shavina Tredinnick Shavina Tredinnick 2:31 pm 11 Jun 21

I go to Sydney for all my specialist doctors.

Carolyn Mallows Carolyn Mallows 2:20 pm 11 Jun 21

My daughter waited 7 years

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