Growth in private hospital admissions outstrips public again

Admissions to private hospitals grew by an estimated 5.1% in 2006-07 while public hospital admissions grew by 3.3%, according to the annual Australian hospital statistics report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

George Bodilsen of the Institute's Hospitals Unit said that while public hospitals continued to take most admissions (61%), the rise in private hospital admissions continued a long-term trend of higher growth in private hospitals.

'This trend was also seen in the rise in admissions for which private health insurance was reported as the funding source', Mr Bodilsen said. 'These increased by an average of 5.5% per year between 2002-03 and 2006-07, with most of that rise in private hospitals. The rise for the most recent year was 7.2%'.

There were 7.6 million hospital admissions in total in 2006-07, a 4.0% increase over the previous year.

In 2006-07, most admissions were same-day stays (50% in public hospitals, 65% in private hospitals). This was consistent with a long-term rise in the proportion of admissions that were same-day, from 46.3% in 1997-98 to 55.8% in 2006-07.

The long-term rise in same-day admissions had driven a decline in average length of stay from 4.1 to 3.3 days over the same period. For patients staying at least one night, average length of stay was relatively constant over the same period, and in 2006-07 was 6.2 days in public acute hospitals and 5.4 days in private hospitals.

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2006-07, shows that in 2006-07 there were almost 557,000 admissions for elective surgery from public hospital waiting lists. Fifty per cent of these admitted patients waited 32 days or less. This median waiting time was the same as for the previous year, but had increased from 28 days in 2002-03.

The shortest median waiting time in 2006-07 was 12 days for cardiothoracic surgery, and the longest was 71 days for eye surgery.

There were about 6.7 million emergency department presentations, with 70% of people being seen in the recommended time for their urgency category. The proportions seen on time were 99% of resuscitation cases (seen within 2 minutes), 78% of emergency cases (within 10 minutes), 65% of urgent cases (within 30 minutes) and 66% of semi-urgent cases (within 60 minutes).

In 2006-07, public hospital expenditure was $26.3 billion-5.6% greater than in 2005-06 after adjusting for inflation.

Friday 30 May 2008

Further information: George Bodilsen, 02 6244 1157, mob. 0409 756 800.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.