Spending outstrips public hospital beds and staff

Public hospital spending is growing more quickly than increases in beds and staff, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Hospital resources 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics, showed that total recurrent spending on public hospital services increased by 3.3% to $71 billion in 2017–18, with about 62% of this being spent on wages and salaries.

‘Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, public hospital bed numbers rose an average of 1.3% per year (from 58,600 to almost 62,000 beds),’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

‘Nationally, public hospitals employed more than 373,234 full-time equivalent staff in 2017–18, an increase of 1.1% from the previous year, despite the number of public hospitalisations increasing 2.1% over the same period.

‘When it comes to the type of care being funded in public hospitals, about 55% of recurrent spending was for admitted patient care, 20% on outpatient care, 10% on emergency care services, 2% on teaching, training and research, 2% for aged care and 10% for other activities.’

In 2017–18, there were 1,350 hospitals in Australia—693 public hospitals and 657 private hospitals (2016–17 is the most recent private hospital data available).

The average annual growth in private hospital beds was higher than public hospitals, with an average of 3.6% each year between 2012–13 and 2016–17 (from 29,800 beds to 34,300 beds).

‘More than 157,000 nurses accounted for 42% of public hospital staff, while more than 46,000 salaried medical officers comprised 12%,’ Dr Webster said.

The AIHW has also released a report detailing services provided for non-admitted patients by Australia’s public hospitals.

Non-admitted patient care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics shows that in 2017-18 about 39 million services for non-admitted patients were reported by 601 public hospitals and 29 other services.

Of these, 17 million were in allied health and/or clinical nurse specialist intervention clinics, 12.2 million in medical consultation clinics, 5.8 million for diagnostic services and 3.1 million in procedural clinics.

‘Females accounted for over half (55%) of these services, while 33% were used by people aged 65 and over, and 5% by Indigenous Australians,’  Dr Webster said.

  Media enquiries: Peter Jean, AIHW: Tel. 02 6244 1148, mob. 0401 312 261