BACKGROUND: A number of different models have been proposed for determining surgical workforce requirements. METHODS: In 1995 the Workforce Subcommittee of the Victorian Regional Branch of the Australian Orthopaedic Association commenced a prospective evaluation of waiting times for both urgent and nonurgent appointments with orthopaedic surgeons in Victoria. RESULTS: The results for the 3 years, 1995-97, show no significant change in the waiting time for nonurgent appointments and no difference between metropolitan and rural areas. The waiting time for an urgent appointment increased from 1995 to 1997 for the state of Victoria and for metropolitan Melbourne but not for rural areas. However, the median waiting time for an urgent appointment did not change. CONCLUSION: Overall the waiting times were found to be satisfactory by previously reported standards.