Same waits, but more emergency department care and elective surgery, and SAB meets benchmark

The latest information on elective surgery waiting times and emergency department care in Australia’s public hospitals has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2010–11: Emergency department care and elective surgery waiting times, shows Australia’s public hospitals admitted about 621,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists in 2010­–11, 15,000 more than in the previous year.

‘Over the five years from 2006–07 to 2010–11, admissions from elective surgery waiting lists increased by an average of 2.8% per year,’ said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

In 2010–11, 50% of patients waited 36 days or less for public elective surgery—the same as in 2009–10, but an increase from the median waiting time 5 years ago of 32 days.

‘However longer waits have dropped—over the last year there was a drop in the proportion of patients waiting more than a year to be admitted for their surgery—from 3.6% in 2009–10 to 2.9% in 2010–11,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

The report also shows there were almost 6.2 million presentations to emergency departments in public hospitals in 2010–11—225,000 more than the previous year. Emergency department presentations rose by an average of 4% each year over the last 5 years.

However, as with waiting times for elective surgery, the proportion of patients seen on time for their triage category in emergency departments remained stable at around 70%.

This figure includes 100% of the most urgent patients being seen immediately, and 79% of those who required care within 10 minutes of arriving in the emergency department.

A second report, also released today, provides information on cases of staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia (SAB), a serious bloodstream infection that may be associated with hospital care. This is the first nationally comparable SAB data for public hospitals for the states and territories.

Australian hospital statistics 2010–11: Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia (SAB) in public hospitals shows there were 1,873 cases of SAB reported for Australian public hospitals between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2011. Most would have been treatable with commonly used antibiotics.

‘In 2010-11, all states and territories had rates of SAB below the national benchmark of 2.0 cases per 10,000 days of patient care,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

Both reports are companions to the MyHospitals website. MyHospitals provides information on elective surgery and emergency department waiting times and SAB for individual public hospitals. Waiting times information for 2010–11 was added today.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

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