Emergency department care

Emergency departments (EDs) are an essential component of Australia’s health care system. Many of Australia’s public hospitals have purpose-built EDs, staffed 24 hours a day, providing care for patients who require urgent medical, surgical or other attention.

Explore more details on ED care via the links at the bottom of the page.

Media release

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Emergency department activity increased in 201819

  • There were 8.4 million presentations to Australian public hospital EDs in 2018–19—an average of about 23,000 presentations per day and up 4.2% from 2017–18.
  • Principal diagnoses of Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes accounted for 1 in 4 presentations (2 million). These include fractures, burns, toxic effects of medicinal and non-medicinal substances, and other complications.
  • 52% of patients were assigned to the 3 most urgent triage categories (Resuscitation, Emergency and Urgent), ranging from 37% for patients aged 5 to 14 to 69% for patients aged 95 and over.
  • Most ED patients went home after being treated (60%) and almost one third of patients (31%) were admitted to hospital for further care.

Around three-quarters of patients receive care on time

In 2018–19, 71% of patients were ‘seen on time’, including almost all of those requiring immediate care and 75% of those requiring care within 10 minutes. The overall proportion seen on time has fallen since 2014–15 (74%).

Of all ED presentations:

  • in 2018–19, 90% of patients were seen within 1 hour and 40 minutes. This measure was fairly consistent over the previous 4 years, varying from 1 hour and 33 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • 50% of patients were seen within 19 minutes, consistent with waiting times for the previous year, and similar to waiting times in 2014–15 (18 minutes).

Fewer ED visits are completed in 4 hours

  • Overall, 70% of ED visits were completed within 4 hours in 2018–19, down from 73% in 2014–15.
  • 90% of ED visits were completed within 7 hours and 29 minutes in 2018–19, up from 7 hours and 14 minutes in 2017–18.

Males, children and older adults are over-represented

  • Patients aged 4 years and under (who make up less than 7% of the population) accounted for 11% of presentations.
  • Patients aged 65 and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for 22% of presentations.

Where do I find more information?

The latest data on ED care is available for download below.