Public hospital admissions rising faster than private hospital admissions

Admissions to public hospitals are growing faster than admissions to private hospitals, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Admitted patient care 2016–17: Australian hospital statistics, shows that of the 11 million admissions to hospitals in 2016–17, 6.6 million were in public hospitals and 4.4 million were in private hospitals.

‘Admissions rose by 4.3% on average each year for public hospitals and 3.6% for private hospitals between 2012–13 and 2016–17, and these were greater than the average growth in population of 1.6% over the same period’ said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

In 2016–17, the majority of admissions to public hospitals (83% or 5.5 million) were for public patients – however, about 1 in 7 (14% or 912,000 admissions) were for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission.

Public hospitals accounted for the majority of emergency admissions (92%), medical admissions (77%) and childbirth admissions (76%) in 2016-17.

‘By contrast, 59% of admissions for surgery were in private hospitals,’ Ms Hargreaves said. 

This proportion grew if the surgery was elective, with 67% of elective surgery admissions taking place in a private hospital. There were 2.2 million admissions involving elective surgery in total.

In terms of the safety and quality of care delivered, the report shows that in 2016-17 there were more than 186,000 admissions associated with hospital-acquired complications (identified from a national list) which equates to 2.2% of 8.6 million in-scope admissions.

Included were over 103,500 admissions (1.2%) with healthcare-associated infections. Other hospital-acquired complications on the national list included heart complications (0.6%), delirium (0.4%) and medication complications (0.2%).

As part of today’s release, the AIHW has also published new information on admissions and the average length of stay in public hospitals available at hospital-level on MyHospitals. Overall, the average length of stay in 2016-17 was 3.2 days in public hospitals and 2.2 days in private hospitals.

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