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Public hospital emergency department visits are increasing at a rate faster than other hospital services, according to the 14th annual report on hospitals released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

There were more than 7 million presentations to emergency departments in 2007-08, with an average annual increase of close to 5% since 2003-04.

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2007-08 shows there were 7.9 million hospital admissions (public and private) in 2007-08, with an average annual increase of 3.6% since 2003-04.

Public hospitals continued to take most admissions (60%) and about half of those were same-day admissions. While admissions to public hospitals grew by an estimated 3.1 % between 2003-04 and 2007-08, private hospital admissions saw stronger growth, at 4.3% over the same period.

'The different service profiles of public and private hospitals continue to be reflected in the growth rates,' said George Bodilsen of the AIHW's Hospitals Unit.

Medical care accounted for 74% of public hospital admissions in 2007-08 and grew more strongly than the increase in surgical care. In private hospitals, surgical care accounted for 41% of admissions.

Across both hospital sectors, the annual growth in same-day admissions continued to outstrip overnight admissions growth - 4.4% compared with 2.5%.

The average length of stay in hospital remained at 3.3 days overall (3.6 days in public acute hospitals, 2.5 days private). For overnight stays the average length of stay was 6.2 days in public acute hospitals and 5.4 days in private hospitals.

The report showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were admitted to hospital at two and a half times the rate of other Australians and their median waiting time for elective surgery was higher than for other Australians.

The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals for all Australians was 34 days in 2007-08, 2 days longer than the previous year and 6 days more than in 2003-04.

The shortest median waiting time was 12 days for cardiothoracic surgery, and the longest median waiting time was 68 days for eye surgery.

Almost 70% of people presenting to emergency departments were seen in the recommended time for their urgency category. Almost 100% of the most urgent cases were seen within the recommended 2 minutes.

In 2007-08, public hospital expenditure was $28.9 billion - 6.1% greater than in 2006-07 after adjusting for inflation. About 62% of this expenditure was for salaries.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Further information: George Bodilsen, tel. (02) 6244 1157, mob. 0409 756 800

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Availability: Check the AIHW Publications area for the availability of Australian hospital statistics 2007-08.