Hospital activity rises, both public and private

Activity in Australia's hospitals, both public and private, rose in the last financial year according to Australian Hospital Statistics 2001-02, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There were 6.4 million hospital admissions recorded in 2001-02, up 4.2% on the previous year. Overall patient-days (the total number of days spent in hospital by patients) rose by 3.4% to 23.2 million.

Most of the growth in hospital activity during the year occurred in the private sector, but the public sector showed rises too, after a decline the previous year.

Private hospital admissions increased by an estimated 9.5% to 2.4 million admissions, while public hospital admissions increased by 2.6% to 4.0 million.

The number of patient-days in private hospitals increased by 3.3% to almost 7.0 million, while for public hospitals the increase was 0.6% to 16.3 million patient-days.

The average length of stay in Australian hospitals continues to decline, and is now 3.6 days, down from 3.7 days in 2000-01. However, for patients who stayed at least one night, the average length of stay increased from 6.4 days in 2000-01 to 6.5 days in 2001-02.

Same day stays increased by 5.6% in public hospitals and by an estimated 11.8% in private hospitals.

Acting Head of the AIHW's Resources Division, Jenny Hargreaves, said that admissions and patient-days have continued to increase over the last decade.

'Between 1993-94 and 2001-02, admissions increased by almost 40% overall, with public hospital admissions going up by about 20%, and private hospital admissions by about 85%.'

'Over the same period, the number of patient-days in public hospitals rose by just over 5%, while for private hospitals they increased markedly, by 36%.'

The average cost per stay in public hospitals in 2001-02 (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $3,017. Total public hospital expenditure in 2001-02 was estimated at $16.8 billion, an increase of 5.0% in real terms on 2000-01 expenditure.

The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals remains unchanged at 27 days since 1999-00. During 2001-02, 4.5% of patients waited longer than 365 days, compared with 4.4% in 2000-01. Most surgical specialties had median waiting times of less than 30 days.

The report notes that two procedures increasingly being undertaken in the private sector are chemotherapy and kidney dialysis. The proportion of all chemotherapy admissions that were in private hospitals rose from 15% to 51% in the 8 years to 2001-02. For kidney dialysis, the increase was from 8% to 14%.


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