Elective surgery

Elective surgery refers to non-emergency surgery that is medically necessary, but which can be delayed for at least 24 hours.

If you have been scheduled for surgery, and placed on the elective surgery waiting list, the following information will assist you to understand the process.

South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) continues to review how to manage its readiness and response to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation.

Please read the following to prepare for your elective surgery.

Changes to elective surgery bookings

From 9 May 2022 there will be a phased resumption of non-urgent category 2 and 3 elective surgery bookings.

Patients who have had their surgery deferred will be contacted by their treating hospital once a booking slot is available.

Read more about elective surgery categories (external site).

Visiting our hospital

Changes to visitor arrangements at our hospitals have been introduced in line with other public hospitals throughout WA.

As hospitals care for people when they are at their most vulnerable, these changes will help them, our staff and the wider community safe from the spread of COVID-19.

Please read about these changes.

Text reads COVID-19 visiting

COVID-19 testing for elective surgery patients

To maximise patient and staff safety, all patients attending a Western Australian hospital for planned elective surgery, and any accompanying approved essential visitor, need to complete a rapid antigen test (RAT) when they arrive at the hospital.

This quick test checks if you have COVID-19 and provides a result within 15 to 30 minutes.

The following information applies to planned elective surgery patients, including inductions of labour, booked maternity appointments, elective caesarean sections and paediatric surgery.

Different RAT pathways for different patients

The majority of patients will follow the RAT screening pathway detailed below.

Some patients, such as those who are immunocompromised, will undergo RAT screening in different locations. Patients who will be contacted with alternative RAT screening processes include those receiving:

  • cancer services
  • dialysis
  • heart and lung transplant
  • visitors to haematology ward areas.
Before you attend

Depending on the time between your booking and your surgery, you will receive a letter, email, phone call or text detailing your surgery plan, including RAT screening instructions when you arrive at the hospital.

As your surgery date approaches, your treating team will determine the risk to you of proceeding with your surgery if you test positive for COVID-19 in the days before or day of your surgery.

Your treating team will ask for your mobile phone number, and email address if you have one, so they can contact you about any changes that need to be made.

Do not attend an elective surgery appointment if you are unwell. Contact the Elective Waitlist Service on 9599 4000 before your admission if you:

  • develop COVID-19 symptoms (Healthy WA)
  • have recently travelled outside of WA
  • have been to a COVID-19 exposure sites (Healthy WA) during the specified times
  • work in a high-risk area
  • are under quarantine or self-isolation
  • are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or
  • a person who received a recent positive swab result, i.e. within the last 2 weeks. 

Please advise your treating team if you:

  • have an essential visitor to accompany you
  • have mobility issues and will require assistance to move throughout the hospital once you arrive.

Read information for all visitors on proof of vaccination documents and screening processes.

On the day of your surgery

Please bring with you the letter or email you received with the details of your surgery. This will help our staff direct you after your RAT screening.

Please do not bring a support person or partner with you. Have them drive you to the hospital for you to make your own way to your appointment.

Only an approved essential support visitor/carer is allowed, with proof of vaccination. They will also undergo RAT screening. Read more about access for visitors.

If you are staying in hospital for several days, please have your overnight bag delivered to you during visitor hours, where possible.

When you arrive at the hospital

Do not arrive before 6am. Pre-admission RAT screening is conducted in the Building I behind the dental building – see the map (PDF 211KB).

Do not go to the main hospital entry. Please go directly to the Building I and line up for pre-admission RAT screening. Do not line up in the general COVID-19 testing queue.

To determine your COVID-19 risk status, kiosk staff will ask a series of questions about your health and of any visits to known COVID-19 exposure locations.

You will then be directed to the RAT screening location.

The RAT screening process

Our staff will record your details into the reporting system before your RAT screening.

A nurse will help you complete the RAT. You will then be given a sticker that you must wear at all times to identify you have been screened.

Most patients will be asked to proceed directly to the location detailed in their appointment letter or email within the hospital to await their RAT result. Please do not visit any other areas within the hospital.

Some patients may be asked to wait in the RAT screening area until their result is ready, particularly if you have symptoms or have answered yes to one of the screening questions.

Patients will not be notified of a negative result.

If your RAT result is positive for COVID-19

The risks associated with surgery are much higher for people with COVID-19 and must be weighed against the risks of delaying treatment.

It is likely that your surgery will be postponed if you test positive for COVID-19. You will be asked to have a PCR test (Healthy WA) for COVID-19 and then immediately return home and isolate as per the current COVID guidelines for WA.

If your treating team determines you need urgent care, your surgery may go ahead as planned with a range of additional precautions. This may include moving you to an isolation area.

If your approved essential visitor tests positive for COVID-19 this may also result in your surgery being delayed. Again, your treating team will determine the next steps in your care.

If your elective surgery is postponed

Please be assured postponing your surgery due to a positive COVID-19 RAT does not mean you will go to the end of the elective surgery waitlist. Your procedure will be rebooked and you will be contacted with further details.

For more information please visit our online one-stop-information hub for patients and visitors.

If you have ongoing care needs

If you need to attend the hospital repeatedly in the days and weeks after your surgery, your treating team will advise you how often you (and your essential visitor) must complete RAT screening when arriving at the hospital. For most people this will be every 3 days.

On the days you are scheduled for RAT screening, please attend the COVID Clinic and line up at the blue kiosk for pre-admission RAT screening.