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
Chris Van Aaken Chris Van Aaken 10:02 am 11 Jun 21

Try a neurological wait time or 6 years

Luke Felton Luke Felton 10:06 am 11 Jun 21

Ive been waiting somewhere around 5 years for a sleep study

Lauren Montagnese Lauren Montagnese 10:10 am 11 Jun 21

Antonio Montagnese looks like we will have to go private!

David Warner David Warner 10:20 am 11 Jun 21

getting tonsils out is outpatient?

    Dawn Bowra Dawn Bowra 10:36 am 11 Jun 21

    David Warner yes it’s elective surgery and depending on severity a cat 3 at best.

Jess Hanily Jess Hanily 10:36 am 11 Jun 21

Sean Hanily this is why we went private with Benny!

Shannen McCann-Geiger Shannen McCann-Geiger 11:10 am 11 Jun 21

My sister waited 13 years. She went on the list as a little child and has spent years missing massive chunks of school due to tonsillitis.

She finally got them removed this year at the age of 17. 🤷🏻‍♀️

2 years doesn’t seem that bad considering

    Melinda Gonczarek Melinda Gonczarek 12:18 pm 11 Jun 21

    Shannen McCann-Geiger 13 years is absolutely crazy. Seems like something went very, very wrong there :(

Shannen McCann-Geiger Shannen McCann-Geiger 11:13 am 11 Jun 21

Kye L Firefly

they are complaining over 2 years...

How many years did Brooke wait?

13 years lol.

    Kye L Firefly Kye L Firefly 11:40 am 11 Jun 21

    Shannen McCann-Geiger Brooke waited 15 years to get her tonsils out in the ACT

Donna Hodder Donna Hodder 11:13 am 11 Jun 21

Faith Linehan looks like JJ is for a long wait 🤦‍♀️

Nicole O'connor Nicole O'connor 11:45 am 11 Jun 21

I've been on the list for 6 years with my deviated septum. I was originally told 12 months. I can't breathe properly, can't taste or smell. Constant sinus infections.

Melinda Gonczarek Melinda Gonczarek 12:16 pm 11 Jun 21

We are going private for our 3 year old to have grommets put in. Entire time from start to finish privately will be about 5 months, so that's pretty good. We acknowledge we are in a privileged position of having PHI and the means to pay though, would be very distressing were this not the case.

    Melinda Gonczarek Melinda Gonczarek 2:16 pm 11 Jun 21

    Natalie Grey We can agree to disagree on this but being employed in a well paying job that allows me to have private health insurance and savings to cover medical costs, having received a good education, being a white and able bodied woman - all equals privilege and I am aware of it. As for other people receiving "free" health care that other people work to pay for, I also enjoy access to public schools, drive on our roads, have my bins collected fortnightly, receive Medicare rebates, have access to “free” health care if I need it, etc, etc, etc - picking and choosing the parts of taxes that work for us is redundant.

    Chris Emery Chris Emery 6:43 pm 11 Jun 21

    Private Health Insurance is queue jumping for the wealthy. Almost a form of bribery.

    Melinda Gonczarek Melinda Gonczarek 6:46 pm 11 Jun 21

    Chris Interesting perspective.

    Belinda Konz Belinda Konz 1:09 am 12 Jun 21

    Chris Emery expensive way to jump a queue tho. I pay just over $500 a month, a $250 excess per admission and then the gap fees for surgeons and anaetheatists. Going private is bloody expensive but I am fortunate to be in a position to pay for it. So much more needs to be put into our public health system as the differences even in the same procedures (sedation when done privately vs local anaesthetic for the same procedure in a public hospital) is just awful to see.

Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 12:24 pm 11 Jun 21

I’m pretty sure that is exactly the desired result…

Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 12:25 pm 11 Jun 21

Been waiting 5 years to see a hand specialist. In what universe is that ok?

Ashley Hillstead Ashley Hillstead 12:29 pm 11 Jun 21

Y’all voted for this, in 2012 the ACT government got caught red handed cooking the books on ER waiting times (and the fake numbers were still the worst in the country) and they’ve been re-elected 3 times since then as the ACT health system has continued to fail.

Canberrans continue to get what they asked for - more of the same.

Michelle Sera Michelle Sera 12:35 pm 11 Jun 21

Juan David Cañon what I was talking about

Amy LD Amy LD 12:42 pm 11 Jun 21

I waited 7 years. When they called me I said don’t worry about it.

Alby Mack Alby Mack 12:47 pm 11 Jun 21

Yet another failure of the ACT Labor/Greens government!!

    Glory Hammer Glory Hammer 6:20 pm 11 Jun 21

    Maybe, but it seems that in every state and territory there are problems with the Health system, regardless of the political party governing. Demand outstrips supply everywhere.

Barbara Ingram Barbara Ingram 12:53 pm 11 Jun 21

I'm sure there is plenty who can easily afford to go private.

Stacey Paris Stacey Paris 1:33 pm 11 Jun 21

Ellie Hawkey poor alexis already been waiting over 5 years.

Gabrielle Kuta Gabrielle Kuta 1:47 pm 11 Jun 21

My daughter went on the waitlist Nov 2019 and had it done 2 weeks ago. Pretty much what we expected.

Janet Heap Janet Heap 2:14 pm 11 Jun 21

Surely health and education should come first , before developers and road infrastructure projects.

The Govt needs to check historical files to see that these sorts of projects had to wait when times were difficult. And people came first for housing, and health and education.

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