Surgeries in Australia

Self-Funded/Elective Surgeries in Australia and New Zealand: Navigating Wait Times and Options

August 25, 2023

The demand for elective surgeries in Australia and New Zealand has surged over the years, leading to significant waiting times for certain procedures within the public healthcare systems. As a result, many patients are exploring the option of self-funded or private surgeries to expedite their treatment and reduce the time spent on waiting lists. This article delves into the challenges posed by extended wait times for elective surgeries and discusses how self-funded procedures can offer a viable solution.


Wait Times and the Public Healthcare System

Recent reports from ABC News reveal that wait times for specialist procedures in Australia have expanded to unprecedented lengths, with some patients facing delays of several years before they can access necessary treatments. This phenomenon can be attributed to various factors, including an aging population, increased demand for healthcare services, and limited resources within the public healthcare system. While the public system offers cost-effective care, the extended wait times can negatively impact patients’ quality of life and potentially exacerbate their medical conditions.


The situation is not dissimilar in New Zealand, where patients have also been grappling with extended waiting times for elective surgeries. To address this issue, innovative measures are being introduced, such as a system where patients waiting for surgery are periodically assessed to determine if they still require the procedure. However, these efforts are ongoing, and the challenges posed by prolonged wait times remain.


Private vs. Public Hospitals: A Comparison

For patients seeking to expedite their elective surgeries, private hospitals offer an alternative avenue. Private healthcare facilities in both Australia and New Zealand provide self-funded options that allow patients to undergo their surgeries without enduring the lengthy waiting lists that are characteristic of the public system. Private hospitals often boast state-of-the-art equipment, personalized care, and shorter waiting times, making them an attractive choice for those who can afford the extra expense.


An analysis by highlights the differences in wait times between private and public hospitals. The data suggests that private hospitals generally provide faster access to elective surgeries, ensuring that patients can receive timely treatments. This swift access can be particularly crucial for conditions that may worsen if left untreated for an extended period.


Self-Funded/Elective Surgeries: Benefits and Considerations


Opting for self-funded or elective surgeries can have a profound impact on a patient’s healthcare journey, offering both distinct advantages and important considerations. This section delves deeper into the benefits and considerations associated with choosing private healthcare options for elective surgeries in Australia and New Zealand, as well as highlighting the treatments with the longest waiting lists.



  • Reduced Wait Times: One of the primary motivations for choosing self-funded or private surgeries is the significantly reduced wait times. In contrast to the extended waiting lists in the public healthcare system, private hospitals prioritize scheduling and can often provide expedited access to medical procedures. This prompt treatment can be crucial for conditions that may worsen over time or cause discomfort and limitations in daily life.
  • Specialized Care: Private hospitals often boast a team of highly specialized medical professionals who excel in their respective fields. Patients have the opportunity to select from a pool of experienced surgeons and healthcare providers, ensuring that they receive care tailored to their specific medical needs. This specialized attention can lead to improved outcomes and a higher quality of care.
  • State-of-the-Art Facilities: Private healthcare facilities typically invest in the latest medical technology and equipment, which can result in more accurate diagnoses, minimally invasive procedures, and enhanced overall patient experiences. Advanced facilities contribute to the overall efficiency and success of surgeries and treatments.
  • Personalized Experience: Self-funded surgeries offer patients a more personalized and comfortable experience. From private rooms to individualized post-operative care plans, the emphasis on patient comfort and satisfaction is a hallmark of private healthcare settings.
  • Choice and Control: Patients who opt for self-funded procedures have the ability to choose their preferred healthcare providers, including surgeons and specialists. This element of choice and control can instill confidence and peace of mind, as patients are actively involved in their healthcare decisions.



  • Cost Implications: One of the most significant considerations associated with self-funded surgeries is the cost. Private healthcare services can be substantially more expensive than their public counterparts, including fees for the procedure, hospital stay, anesthesia, and follow-up care. Patients should carefully assess their financial capabilities and explore options such as private health insurance to mitigate the financial burden.
  • Insurance Coverage: Patients with private health insurance may have coverage for certain elective procedures, which can alleviate a portion of the costs. However, coverage varies based on policies, providers, and the specific procedure being undertaken. It’s essential to thoroughly understand the terms and conditions of insurance coverage to avoid any surprises. You can visit for more information.
  • Research and Selection: Choosing the right private healthcare provider requires thorough research and due diligence. Patients should investigate the reputation, expertise, and success rates of surgeons and hospitals, along with patient reviews and testimonials. This process ensures that patients make informed decisions regarding their healthcare.
  • Recovery and Aftercare: While private healthcare facilities offer personalized aftercare plans, patients must still consider the recovery process. Adequate post-operative recovery time and adherence to medical guidelines are crucial for achieving the best possible outcomes. Patients should discuss post-operative expectations and aftercare plans with their chosen healthcare providers.
  • Medical Necessity: Despite the allure of shorter wait times, patients should ensure that the chosen elective surgery is medically necessary and aligns with their healthcare needs. Rushing into unnecessary procedures can lead to potential complications and undesirable outcomes.


Treatments with the Longest Waiting Lists:

In Australia, the demand for elective surgeries has led to substantial waiting times, particularly for certain procedures. As of 2021-22, among the 25 most common surgeries, the following treatments had the longest waiting times in public hospitals:

  • Nose Surgery (Septoplasty): A procedure to correct a damaged nose bone, with an average waiting time of 315 days in public hospitals.
  • Ear Surgery (Myringoplasty): This surgery involves repairing a hole in the eardrum and had an average waiting time of 259 days.
  • Total Knee Replacement: A surgery to replace weight-bearing surfaces of the knee, with an average waiting time of 293 days.


These extensive waiting times underline the challenges faced by patients within the public healthcare system and contribute to the growing interest in self-funded and private healthcare options for expedited treatment.


Opting for self-funded or elective surgeries in Australia and New Zealand presents a range of benefits and considerations. While the reduced wait times, specialized care, and personalized experiences are attractive, patients must carefully evaluate the financial implications and thoroughly research their options. Striking a balance between medical needs, financial capabilities, and informed decision-making is essential for a successful self-funded surgery journey.


The growing waiting times for elective surgeries within the public healthcare systems of Australia and New Zealand have prompted patients to explore alternative options. Self-funded or private surgeries offer a viable solution for those seeking to expedite their treatment and avoid prolonged waits. While private hospitals provide faster access and more personalized care, it’s crucial for patients to carefully consider the financial implications and explore available insurance coverage.


As healthcare authorities continue to address the challenges of extended wait times, patients are presented with a choice between the cost-effective yet time-consuming public healthcare system and the swifter, albeit more expensive, private healthcare route. Making an informed decision requires a balance between medical needs, financial capabilities, and the available options.


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