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Each patient who presents to an emergency department is assessed according to how urgently they should receive care, using a triage category system. The most urgent cases are assigned to the Resuscitation triage category (should be treated immediately), and the least urgent are assigned as Non-urgent (should be seen within 2 hours).

Data on triage category and waiting times were available for over 6.5 million emergency department presentations in major public hospitals (about 83% of all emergency visits to public hospitals). A total of 5.6 million of those (85%) were in Principal referral and specialist women's and children's hospitals and Large hospitals.

In 2011–12:

  • 72% of patients were seen within the recommended time for their triage category, ranging from 66% for Urgent patients, to 100% for Resuscitation patients (Figure 12)
  • 50% of patients received care in 21 minutes or less and 90% received care in 108 minutes or less.

The proportion of patients seen within the recommended time for their triage category improved for all triage categories (except Resuscitation patients which remained at 100%) between 2007–08 and 2011–12, despite increasing numbers of emergency department presentations.

Figure 12: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, 2011-12  

There was some variation in the proportion seen on time between jurisdictions, ranging from 54% overall for the Northern Territory to 76% overall in New South Wales and South Australia (Table 3). More information on the proportion seen on time by triage category for each state and territory can be found in figures 12a–12h below.

Table 3: Proportion (%) of presentations seen on time by triage category, public hospital emergency departments, states and territories, 2011–12
NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT NT Total
('000)
Total emergency department presentations 2,235 1,509 1,239 726 427 142 118 145 6,541
Triage category Per cent
Resuscitation 100 100 100 99 100 100 100 100 100
Emergency 82 83 82 76 79 77 76 64 80
Urgent 71 72 63 52 70 64 50 49 66
Semi-urgent 74 67 69 67 77 71 47 49 70
Non-urgent 89 87 90 94 92 88 81 89 89
Total 76 72 69 65 76 71 55 54 72

Note: The ACT has corrected about 12,000 records for emergency department waiting times data that were submitted for the reporting periods 2008–09 to 2011–12. These revised data are reported in Australian hospital statistics 2011–12: emergency department care.

Figure 12a: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, NSW, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, New South Wales, 2011-12  

Figure 12b: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, Vic, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Victoria, 2011-12  

Figure 12c: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, Qld, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Queensland, 2011-12  

Figure 12d: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, WA, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Western Australia, 2011-12  

Figure 12e: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, SA, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, South Australia, 2011-12  

Figure 12f: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, Tas, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Tasmania, 2011-12  

Figure 12g: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, ACT, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Australian Capital Territory, 2011-12

Data are not currently available.

Figure 12h: Proportion of presentations seen on time, public hospital emergency departments, NT, 2011–12

Bar chart shows proportion of presentations seen on time by triage category and total, for public hospital emergency departments, Northern Territory, 2011-12  

Further information

Emergency department services