"Tonsillectomy wait for children"

About: Bunbury Hospital

(as a parent/guardian),

I phoned South West Health Campus (formerly Bunbury Regional Hospital) about my child who is on the 12 month wait-list for a tonsillectomy (for persistent tonsillitis) and adenoid removal. Being nearly 10 months on the list (plus at my wits end as they have tonsillitis again), I called the hospital to see how the wait-list was tracking, to be told the surgeons are only doing tonsillectomies once a month now and the wait is now 18 months - 2 years! Turns out Busselton Hospital no longer does Tonsillectomies too - so Bunbury is packed to the rafters. Calls to the ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) office have fallen on deaf ears - I felt like the people answering the phone could hardly contain their contempt for my query on the phone.

The ladies at the wait-list department were very helpful and sympathetic to my frustrations, however I (and it seems no one else on the tonsil wait list) were notified of such change. If I'd known, I'd have made alternative arrangements.

The rate of 18 months - 2 years to get tonsils out is ridiculous. My young child is on antibiotics constantly - at what point does persistent tonsillitis become a priority? How can there be constant concerns about creating super-bugs when people are forced to be on antibiotics for years before having these procedures done? The medicine doesn't work anymore. My child has spent most of their short life on medicine, miserable, terrified of doctors and spending much of their life curled up in bed. I know tonsils rate very low on the scale, however I can't understate just how devastating this constant illness is for a child's overall health and mental well-being. Don't get me started on the financial toll this has taken on our family too.

Very disappointed at the incredible wait-lists at SWHC, particularly for children.


Response from Jan Cook, Operations Manager Coastal Hospital, WACHS South West

Dear stillwaiting,

I am sorry to hear that your child is having constant tonsillitis and is on antibiotics for this.

I acknowledge the disappointment and frustration that you are expressing in regards to the long wait that your child has had for this surgery.

I am pleased that the staff in the Bunbury Hospital wait-list department were helpful and sympathetic. I understand they advised you to go back to your GP and ask him to contact the ENT specialist as a priority due to the change in your child’s condition and the increased need for your child to have the surgery earlier or to be referred to Perth. It appears that a referral to advise the surgeon that your child was not doing well and needed surgery to be performed earlier than the original referral has not been received by the Surgeon.

The ENT surgeon is the person who allocates patients to the elective theatre wait-list based on both the original consultation with them and the information he receives from the patients GP.

I am are aware that there is a significant wait-list for ENT surgical procedures and in particular tonsillectomies. Both the Regional Director and I have met with the ENT surgeon to see what we can do to assist with recruiting a resident ENT surgeon to Bunbury. A resident ENT surgeon living in the region would assist greatly to improve the time patients are required to wait for surgery.

You may be aware that tonsillectomies have a significant risk of complications including post tonsillectomy haemorrhage. As such, the patients must stay within close proximity to the hospital where this surgery was performed. The ENT Surgeon and the Specialist Anaesthetist are also required to stay in the town, close to the hospital, for 10 days post-surgery to be able to provide that emergency surgery if required. Bunbury Hospital is the only hospital in the South West which has access to onsite Specialist Anaesthetists and ENT surgeons, enabling this emergency response in the timeframe required, and therefore, is the only hospital safe to have the procedures undertaken.

If you would like to talk with me to discuss further and to see if we can assist, please call me on 9722 1421. It will be important to ensure that your GP is aware of the process of ensuring a deterioration in your little one’s condition is referred for reprioritisation by the surgeon. We may be able to assist you with this, if we can speak directly.


Jan Cook, A/Operations Manager Bunbury Hospital

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Update posted by stillwaiting (a parent/guardian)

Thank you for your response Jan.

I appreciate the trouble in finding more specialists to assist with working through these lists and appreciate the complications attached to tonsillectomy (I've had it myself). I'm sure you can see how spending 2 weeks in Perth for treatment there is almost beyond the reach of a family who cannot sustain a wait in Bunbury.

Being Bunbury is the only South West hospital to do these procedures with a shortage of specialists to accommodate post surgical care, I see how the list just grows and grows. I acknowledge the Surgeon's office is who allocates surgeries on priority, however calls to said surgeon's office have been unfruitful, and reception staff are dismissive (to put it kindly), and make it clear in not so many words that everyone is climbing on top of one another for a priority case - my son is but one of hundreds of people waiting for a solution that doesn't seem to be in sight.

I was contacted by other parents, who had children who endured upwards of 50 rounds of antibiotics who still were not considered priority for surgery, so it's with little hope my poor child would be either. It's truly heartbreaking and straining for the time my young child has spent their formative years persistently ill with tonsillitis. The constant congestion causes chest infections and breathing difficulties and poor sleep (adenoids to go too). My child also cannot tolerate the typical medication for tonsillitis, hence they are on very expensive alternative medication which has dwindling efficacy due to continual use. I know tonsillectomies rank lowly in the grand scheme but it's hard to not feel despair about this state never ending, and not being resolved before the onslaught of school bugs, despite being on a wait list for what realistically will be years.

I would very much appreciate the opportunity to chat to you. I will be in touch in the near future after the visit to my GP.

Thank you again for your time, and for the professionalism and empathy with which you and your wait-list dept ladies have treated me with.

Response from Jan Cook, Operations Manager Coastal Hospital, WACHS South West

Dear stillwaiting,

Please be assured that fair, timely and equitable access to the ENT surgeons for all South West residents remains a high priority for the Regional Director and myself.

I look forward to talking with you after your visit to the GP.


Jan Cook

A/Operations Manager, Bunbury Hospital

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Update posted by stillwaiting (a parent/guardian)

Thank you Jan, I have emailed you.