The number of patients being treated in both public and private hospitals in Australia each year continues to rise, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Australian Hospital Statistics 1998-99 shows that 5.7 million hospital separations (as admissions are referred to) were recorded in 1998-99, up 3.1% on the previous year.
The number of separations from public acute hospitals increased by 2.4% to 3.8 million.
In private hospitals the increase was 4.6% to 1.9 million.
Overall, the proportion of all separations that were in private hospitals rose by 1% (to 33%).
Head of the AIHW's Patient Morbidity and Services Unit, Jenny Hargreaves, said that the increase in throughput in hospitals can be explained by the continuing decline in the average length of stay: from 4.3 days in 1993-94 to 3.9 days in 1998-99.
This is associated with the increasing proportion of same-day hospital stays, which are now close to half of all stays, Ms Hargreaves said.
Conditions relating to the six National Health Priority Areas cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, diabetes and asthma made up more than 1.5 million hospital separations in 1998-99, representing almost 9 million patient days.
Of the National Health Priority Areas group, cardiovascular disease accounted for the highest number of separations (426,000), and mental health conditions accounted for the highest number of patient days (nearly 3 million).
Other findings in Australian Hospital Statistics 1998-99 include:
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