© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.Background: It is uncertain whether bariatric surgery can be safely performed in secondary hospitals without on-site intensive care unit (ICU) support. This study describes the outcomes of elective bariatric surgery patients who required inter-hospital transfers for unplanned ICU management, extrapolating this as a parameter for secondary hospital safety after bariatric surgery. Methods: This was a retrospective, statewide, population-based, linked data cohort study capturing all adult bariatric surgery patients for an entire Australian state between 2007 and 2011 (n = 12,062) with minimum 12-month follow-up. Results: In secondary hospitals, 2663 (22.1 %) bariatric patients were operated on, with the majority (n = 2553) undergoing sleeve gastrectomies (SG) or adjustable gastric bands (LAGB). Forty-two patients (including 19 LAGB and 20 SG) required inter-hospital transfer to a tertiary hospital for unplanned ICU care (1.6 %, 95 % confidence interval 1.2–2.1), mainly due to surgical complications. Inter-hospital transfers incurred two deaths, both following sleeve gastrectomies. When compared to patients requiring unplanned ICU admissions after bariatric surgery in tertiary hospitals with an on-site ICU (n = 155), there was no difference in their demographic parameters, comorbid illnesses, or mortality (4.8 vs 3.9 %, p = 0.68). The mortality following bariatric procedures both statewide (0.2 %) and in secondary hospitals (0.2 %) was both uncommon and comparable. Conclusions: Statewide inter-hospital transfers for unplanned ICU care from secondary hospitals were low. Inter-hospital transfer mortality was comparable to a similar bariatric cohort requiring unplanned ICU care after surgery in a tertiary hospital. This suggests that certain bariatric procedures can be safely done in most secondary hospitals where elective ICU admission is deemed unnecessary.