Private hospital admissions up 4%, public hospitals up 2%

Both private and public hospital admissions rose between the 2002-03 and 2003-04 financial years, according to Australian Hospital Statistics 2003-04, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Compared with the previous year, private hospital admissions rose by 4.0% to 2.6 million admissions, and public hospital admissions rose by 2.1% to 4.2 million admissions.

The total of 6.8 million hospital admissions recorded in 2003-04 was up 2.9% on the previous year. Overall patient days - the total number of days spent in hospital by patients - rose by 1.3% to 23.6 million.

For the first time, the report gives detailed data on care provided in emergency departments of selected public hospitals.

Head of the AIHW's Hospitals and Mental Health Services Unit, Jenny Hargreaves, said that public hospital emergency departments provided care on about 5.9 million occasions during 2003-04.

'The figures show that young people aged 15-24 years account for the largest number of treatments in emergency departments at around 15% of all occasions of service,' Ms Hargreaves said. 'And males account for more occasions of emergency care than females, except for patients aged 75 years and over.'

Ms Hargreaves said that over the 11 years that the AIHW has compiled Australian Hospital Statistics reports, admissions and patient days continued to increase, particularly for private hospitals.

'Between 1994-95 and 2003-04, hospital admissions increased by about 40% overall, with public hospital admissions going up by about 22%, and private hospital admissions by about 80% .'

'Over this same period, while the number of patient days in private hospitals increased markedly, by 32.5%, while public hospitals experienced a 1.1% rise in patient days.'

Figures on the lengths of hospital stays show that the proportion of hospital stays that are same-day is increasing. Same-day stays increased from 40% in 1994-95 to 54% in 2003-04.

This has been the main reason behind the continuing decline in average length of stay in Australian hospitals, as the average length of stay for patients staying at least one night has remained fairly constant over the last 10 years.

The average length of stay in Australian hospitals (including same day stays) is now 3.4 days, down from 3.5 days in 2002-03 and 4.6 days in 1994-95.

For stays of at least one night, the average length of stay in 2003-04 was 6.4 days in public hospitals and 5.4 days in private hospitals.

The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals in 2003-04 was 28 days, the same as the previous year. Overall, 3.9% of patients waited more than one year, compared with 4.0% the previous year.

The average cost per stay in public hospitals in 2003-04 (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $3,293 compared with $3,163 in 2002-03 (not adjusted for inflation).

Total recurrent public hospital expenditure in 2003-04 was estimated at $20.0 billion, a real increase of 5.4% on the previous year.

27 May 2005

Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1121, or 0407 012 520

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.