Media release

New Surgical Wait List Roundtable to tackle regional access

Elective surgery wait list times are blowing out in regional Queensland. AMA Queensland is bringing together experts across all specialties and all regions to find solutions.

AMA Queensland is convening a new Roundtable to examine growing elective surgery wait lists in regional and rural areas and identify practical, affordable actions the Government can take to address inequities in access.

The Surgical Wait List Roundtable follows the success of the AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable in 2021, which made sensible, achievable recommendations on how to address ambulance ramping and emergency department overcrowding issues.

“Our members in regional Queensland are alarmed at the growing inequity of access to elective surgery, particularly in areas between the Sunshine Coast and Townsville,” AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton said.

“Many regional Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) are performing elective surgery at a rate per capita that is, at best, 50 per cent of the rate of Cairns HHS and comparable health services in New South Wales.

“Put simply, doctors are justifiably worried that regional Queenslanders are missing out on necessary and important surgeries, leading to delayed diagnoses and more complicated and expensive care.

“If patients are not having these surgeries, they are highly likely to end up in emergency departments, increasing the pressure on our public health system.

“This is having a flow-on effect on our regional health workforce. Our members tell us that working conditions are likely leading to clinical error, with doctors now basically always on-call and performing a disproportionate amount of emergency work compared to their metropolitan colleagues.

“It is not uncommon to work multiple 24-hour on-calls and more than 60 hours a week.

“Queensland Health is required to undertake an external fatigue review as part of its certified agreement with hospital doctors and we look forward to seeing the results.

“However, doctors are frustrated at not being able to use their skills to the full because they are not performing a diverse range of surgeries. This is leading to high job dissatisfaction, limited specialist training opportunities and reduced ability to train medical students and international medical graduates (IMGs).

“Specialists are leaving for metropolitan areas or private practice to undertake elective surgery and maintain their skills, and new specialists are not taking their place in the regions. We rely on IMGs for our regional medical workforce, but they cannot receive proper orientation and training without specialists on the ground.

“The State Government has adopted most of our Ramping Action Plan, with 2,500 more public hospital beds, extended opening hours for transit lounges to allow patients to be discharged at night and on weekends, and new Patient Care Facilitators in general practices to help patients stay out of hospital.

“We are confident our Surgical Wait List Roundtable will provide similar practical, affordable recommendations.”


  • Clinicians from a wide range of specialty areas with expertise in surgical services and regional and remote practice, particularly in Darling Downs, Wide Bay, Central Queensland, Mackay and Townsville HHSs, have been invited to submit expressions of interest by COB 23 April 2024.
  • The Roundtable is anticipated to operate for approximately three to six months and meet online each month.
  • Correspondence between AMA Queensland and Queensland Health is available here.
  • The AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable Action Plan is available here.

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