Public hospital admissions growing faster than private

Hospital admissions have risen faster than population growth, and last financial year saw a rise in influenza related hospitalisations, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Admitted patient care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics, showed that 60% of the 11.3 million hospital admissions were to public hospitals, and that over the past 5 years, publicly funded admissions grew faster than admissions funded by private insurance (4.7% average growth per year compared with 3.6%). The total number of hospital admissions grew by an average of 3.8% per year over this period.

Admission for older Australians was a key driver of this growth. In the five years to 2017–18, hospital admissions increased by 6% per year for people aged 65–74 and 5% per year for people aged 85 and over.

‘This increase was at a faster rate than population growth in both age groups (4.1% and 3.5%, respectively),’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

This growth has meant that, in 2017–18, people aged 65 years and older (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for 42% of admissions and 49% of patient days.

The report also showed relatively high rates of admissions classified as potentially preventable in 2017–18.

Between 2016–17 and 2017–18, vaccine-preventable hospitalisations rose by almost 47%.

‘This reflects large numbers of admissions for influenza and pneumonia in most states and territories,’ Dr Webster said.

Today’s report also showed that elective surgery waiting times have increased for both public and private patients in public hospitals, compared with waiting times previously reported.

‘In 2017–18, the median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals was 41 days overall—public patients waited an additional 3 days and patients who used private health insurance to fund part of their admission waited 2 days longer, compared with 2013–14,’ Dr Webster said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 4.9% of admissions (551,000) and were hospitalised at 2.6 times the rate for other Australians.

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