Access to hospitals

Providing access to appropriate and timely health care is an integral component of hospital care. This section explores several measures of access to Australia’s hospitals including waiting times for selected services. 

Explore more information about access to hospitals via the links at the bottom of the page.

Access to hospitals

All data in these visualisations are available for download in the Data & downloads section of the MyHospitals website.

Public hospitals in Australia

The size, number of beds and activity of these hospitals varied by hospital peer group.

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Admitted patient care – remoteness area

In 2019–20, hospitalisations per 1,000 population in public hospitals increased with increased remoteness.

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Admitted patient care – socioeconomic status

In 2019–20, people who lived in the lowest SES area were more likely to be admitted to a public hospital compared to people living in other areas.

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How is the accessibility of hospitals measured?

An accessible hospital system delivers healthcare that is timely, geographically reasonable and provides services in a setting where skills and resources are appropriate to a person’s medical need (WHO 2006).

Accessibility of Australia’s hospitals can be measured in a number of ways, including:

  • waiting times to access services
  • geographic location, socioeconomic status and Indigenous status of the people that use hospital services, and
  • number and location of services and hospitals.

Admitted patient care

In 2019–20:

  • 5.8 million hospitalisations were for females (52%), and 5.3 million hospitalisations were for males (48%)
  • separation rates were higher for women (454 per 1,000) than men (424 per 1,000), particularly between the ages of 15–44
  • men were more likely than women to have a separation at the age of 55–64 (631 and 567 per 1,000, respectively) and onwards. As they got older, the difference in the separation rate for men and women increased even further
  • Indigenous Australians were more likely to have a separation from a public hospital than a private hospital (510,000 and 71,100 separations, respectively).

Emergency department care

In 2020–21, emergency department waiting times differed by where a person lived:

  • Median waiting times were highest for people living in Major cities (18 minutes), and lowest for those living in Outer regional and Remote areas (15 minutes).
  • patients living in Remote areas had the shortest median waiting times for Emergency triage category
  • patients living in Major cities had the longest median waiting times for Urgent, and Semi-urgent categories.

Elective surgery waiting times

In 2019–20, rates of admission and waiting times for admission from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists, differed by remoteness of area of usual residence and SES:

Where do I find more information?

More data on Admitted patient care 2019–20 is available to explore in the Info and downloads section.

Data on Emergency department care 2019–20 can be found in the Emergency Department care theme page or the data downloads section.

More information on elective surgery waiting times and procedures can be found in the Elective Surgery theme page which primarily uses the National Elective Surgery Waiting Times Data Collection.

Definitions of the terms used in this section are available in the Glossary.

Reference: WHO (2006) Quality of care: a process for making strategic choices in health systems. WHO, Paris.