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There were 6.7 million hospital admissions recorded in 2002-03, up 4% on the previous year, according to Australian Hospital Statistics 2002-03, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Overall patient days - the total number of days spent in hospital by patients - rose by 1.5% to 23.6 million.
Reported public acute hospital admissions increased by 3.2%, compared with 2001-02, to 4.1 million admissions, while for private hospitals, reported admissions rose by 5.3% to 2.6 million admissions. After adjusting for private hospitals included in the data collected in 2002-03 but not in 2001-02, there was an increase of 3.0% for private hospitals.
Over the last year, there were increases in reported admissions for public (Medicare) patients of 3.1% and 5.4% for private (fee paying) patients. After adjusting for private hospitals included in the data collected in 2002-03 but not in 2001-02, private patient admissions increased by about 3.1%.
Head of the AIHW's Hospitals and Mental Health Services Unit, Jenny Hargreaves, said that over the 10 years that the AIHW has compiled Australian Hospital Statistics reports, admissions and patient days continued to increase, particularly for private hospitals.
'Between 1993-94 and 2002-03, hospital admissions increased by about 44% overall, with public hospital admissions going up by about 24%, and private hospital admissions almost doubling,' Ms Hargreaves said.
'Over this same period, while the number of patient days in private hospitals increased markedly, by 39%, public hospitals experienced a 2.5% fall in patient days.'
Figures on the lengths of hospital stays show that the proportion of hospital stays that are same-day is increasing, and the average length of stay in hospitals is declining.
In the five years from 1998-99, the proportion of admissions that were same-day stays increased from 45% to 49% in public hospitals, and from 55% to 62% in private hospitals.
The average length of stay in Australian hospitals continues to decline, and is now 3.5 days, down from 3.6 days in 2001-02 and 3.9 days in 1998-99. However, for patients staying at least one night, average lengths of stay in 2002-03 were 6.5 days in public hospitals, the same as in 2001-02, and similar to the 6.6 days in 1998-99.
The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals in 2002-03 was 28 days, up one day from the previous year. Overall, 4.0% of patients waited more than one year.
Ophthalmology was the surgical specialty with the longest median waiting time, at 61 days, while cardio-thoracic surgery had the shortest median waiting time for patients, at 12 days. Most other surgical specialties had median waiting times of less than 30 days.
The average cost per stay in public hospitals in 2002-03 (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $3,184. Total public hospital expenditure in 2002-03 was estimated at $18.3 billion, an increase of 5.0% (adjusted for inflation) from 2001-02.
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