Hospital admissions rise, signs that elective surgery queues falling

Public and private hospital combined admissions have risen by 16% since 2004-05 to over 8 million admissions in 2008-09, while inroads are being made into elective surgery queues, according to the latest annual report on hospitals released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2008-09, shows that admissions to public hospital emergency departments increased at a faster rate than any other hospital service.

'Public hospitals provide the most emergency department services, with about 7.2 million visits in 2008-09, and an increase of 4.6% on average each year since 2004-05,' said George Bodilsen of the AIHW's Hospitals Unit.

'Of these emergency department patients, about 70% were seen within the recommended time for their triage category and 100% of the most urgent cases were seen on time. This was roughly the same as in previous years.'

Elective surgery admissions are also on the rise. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09, total elective surgery admissions increased from 1.6 million to 1.8 million.

'Public elective surgery increased by 3.1% over 2007-08, faster than the 1.7% average rate of increase between 2004-05 and 2008-09,' Mr Bodilsen said.

'For elective surgery, the median waiting time in public hospitals was 34 days, the same as in 2007-08, but up from 29 days in 2004-05.

'However, the proportion of people waiting over a year for elective surgery has decreased to just under 3%, after being almost 5% in 2004-05. Also, in 2008-09, there were almost 30,000 more admissions for elective surgery from public hospital waiting lists than in 2007-08.

'This combination of results-more public elective surgery being done, average waiting times levelling out, fewer long waits, and increased admissions for elective surgery from waiting lists suggest improving access to public elective surgery.'

The average length of stay in hospital was 3.2 days-2.4 days in private hospitals and 3.5 days in public acute hospitals.

'These averages have been decreasing over time, reflecting the fact that the proportion of admissions that are day-only has been increasing,' Mr Bodilsen said.

Australian hospital statistics 2008-09 shows that 8.5% of all admissions are potentially preventable (if timely and effective non-hospital care had been provided).

Around $31.3 billion was spent in public hospitals in 2008-09. After adjusting for inflation, public hospital spending rose by 5.9% a year between 2004-05 and 2008-09.


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