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The latest information on emergency department care in Australia's public hospitals has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in the report Australian hospital statistics 2011-12: emergency department care.

For the first time, these data are being reported within 3 months of the end of the 2011-12 year. Also for the first time, the report includes new measures of length of stay in emergency departments and length of time to admission to hospital from emergency departments.

The National Emergency Access Target aim is that, by 31 December 2015, 90% of emergency department visits will be completed in 4 hours or less-from arrival, to when they went home or were admitted to the hospital.

'The report shows that, in 2011-12, almost two-thirds (64%) of emergency department visits were completed in 4 hours or less, and 90% of patients had left the emergency department within 8 and a half hours,' said AIHW spokesperson Alison Verhoeven.

Western Australia had the highest proportion of emergency department visits completed in 4 hours or less (79%).

About 28% of emergency department patients were admitted to hospital after their emergency department care. For these patients, 29% were admitted in 4 hours or less, and 90% were admitted within 14 and a half hours.

'In 2011-12, 50% of patients commenced treatment by a medical officer or nurse within 21 minutes of presenting to an emergency department, and treatment commenced for 90% of patients within 108 minutes of presentation,' Ms Verhoeven said.

About 72% of patients commenced treatment within an appropriate time for their urgency (triage) category. Almost 100% of resuscitation patients (those requiring treatment immediately) and 80% of emergency patients (requiring treatment within 10 minutes) were seen on time.

The overall proportion of patients seen on time varied across states and territories, from 54% in the Northern Territory to 76% in New South Wales and in South Australia.

There were over 6.5 million presentations to emergency departments in the 12 months to 30 June this year. Presentations increased by an average of 4.3% each year between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 26 September 2012

Further information: Alison Verhoeven, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1089, mob. 0403 282 501

Full report: Australian hospital statistics 2011-12: emergency department care