Hospital admissions up again

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:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were reported to have almost twice as many hospital episodes per 1,000 population as other patients, after allowing for age structure. However, this is probably an underestimate as the identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the data is incomplete.
  • The average cost per stay in public hospitals (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $2,611. State figures ranged from around $2,400 in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, to around $3,300 in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Differing State methodologies make fine comparisons between States difficult. For the first time, average cost per stay data have been presented by hospital type, allowing the variation in costs to be assessed according to the size and location of the hospitals.
  • People aged over 65 (12% of the total population) accounted for 32% of total hospital admissions, and 46% of patient-days.

14 July 2000


Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 04 1841 4173 or 02 6244 1121.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.