The number of patients being treated in both public and private hospitals in Australia each year continues to increase according to Australian Hospital Statistics 1996-97 a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Between 1995-96 and 1996-97, the number of separations in public acute hospitals increased by 2% to over 3.6 million. In private hospitals the increase was 7% to 1.7 million. Overall, 32% of admissions are now to private hospitals. (For most purposes, a separation can be referred to as an episode in hospital.)
Report co-author, Ms Jenny Hargreaves, said that the increase in throughput in hospitals can be explained by the decline in the average length of stay. In public acute hospitals it declined from 4.3 to 4.2 days, and in private hospitals from 3.7 to 3.5 days. Ms Hargreaves said 'This is associated with the increasing proportion of same day hospital stays.'
In public acute hospitals 42% of hospital episodes were same day separations, and 51% of private hospital episodes were for same day separations.
On an age-standardised basis, the pattern of hospital usage results in separations for Indigenous patients being 86% higher (531 per 1,000) than for the overall Australian population (285 per 1,000). Ms Hargreaves said that 'it is likely that identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is incomplete and that the figures for them are underestimated.'
Australian Hospital Statistics also looks at the costs of an episode in hospital. Dr Janis Shaw, the report's co-author, said that for the first time, the cost per casemix-adjusted separation has been included in Australian Hospital Statistics however comparisons between states remain problematic. Casemix-adjustment accounts for differences in the complexity of cases treated in different hospitals. In 1996-97 the cost in public acute hospitals was $2,496 nationally. In NSW it was $2586, Victoria $2353, Queensland $2354, South Australia $2309, and $3689 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Other findings in Australian Hospital Statistics include:
- Principal diagnoses in the National Health Priority Areas of cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, and diabetes accounted for over 41% of total patient days in all hospitals during 1996-97.
- For all hospitals, the population over 65 years of age - which comprised 12% of the total Australian population, accounted for 30% of separations. There were 727 separations per 1,000 population for this age group compared with an overall crude rate of 289 per 1,000 for the total population.
- The number of separations of private patients in public acute hospitals has been in decline for several years. In 1996-97, 10.9% of public hospital patients were private patients, down from 16.5% in 1993-94.