Public and private hospitals provide a range of services, including emergency department care, admitted patient care (including for elective surgery) and outpatient care. This section provides an overview of activity in public and private hospitals in the most recent year of data available, and trends in the number of services they provided in the preceding 5 years.
Explore more information about hospital activity via the links at the bottom of the page.
Impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity in 2019–20 and 2020–21
Australia’s hospital system has played a significant role in managing and treating people with the coronavirus virus (COVID-19). Between January 2020 and June in 2021, there were over 7,300 hospitalisations involving a COVID-19 diagnosis (2,600 in 2019–20 and 4,700 in 2020–21).
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a profound impact on hospital activity generally. The range of social, economic, business and travel restrictions, including restrictions on some hospital services, and associated measures in other healthcare services to support social distancing in Australia resulted in an overall decrease in hospital activity in 2019–20. Many of these restrictions were eased in 2020, leading to an increase in hospitalisations in 2020–21, despite continuing restrictions in some local areas.
In 2019–20, the number of hospitalisations in Australia decreased by 2.8% compared to 2018–19, whereas previous year-to-year changes indicated a consistent upward trend. In the following year, hospitalisations increased 6.3% in 2020–21 to 11.8 million, an increase of 3.6% in public hospitals and 10.5% in private hospitals.
More information about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity can be found on these pages. Data on:
All data in these visualisations are available for download in the Data & downloads section of the MyHospitals website.
Admitted patient care
There were 11.8 million hospitalisations in 2020–21. This was a 6.3% increase since 2019–20.
Emergency department care
There were 8.8 million emergency department presentations in 2020–21.
Non-admitted patient care
There were 47 million non-admitted patient service events provided by public hospitals in various settings in 2020–21.
There were 8.2 million emergency department presentations in 2019–20. Young children aged 0-4 years and people over 65 had the highest rates of presentations to emergency departments.
There were 38.2 million non-admitted patient service events provided by public hospitals in 2019–20. Allied health and/or clinical nurse specialist interventions were the most common clinic type that provided services.
Hospital activity is measured by the number of services provided by hospitals, including:
In recent years, activity in all sectors of the Australian hospital system has increased each year, reflecting an increased demand for services. However, between 2018–19 and 2019–20, hospital activity decreased due to the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system. But with the lifting of restrictions in 2020, hospital activity increased between 2019-20 to 2020-21, despite continuing restrictions in some local areas.
Overall, activity in all sectors of the Australian hospital system is increasing, reflecting an increasing demand for services.
Nationally, between 2014–15 and 2018–19, hospitalisations increased by an average of 3.3% per year—which was greater than the year-on-year increase in average growth in Australia’s population over the same period (1.1%). Same-day hospitalisations increased by 3.4%, on average, per year and overnight hospitalisations increased by 1.2%, on average, per year.
The larger decrease in overnight hospitalisations, particularly for private hospitals, was likely attributable to the restrictions placed on selected Category 2 and Category 3 elective surgeries due to COVID-19.
In 2021–22, there were 8.79 million presentations (24,100 daily average) to public hospital emergency departments, which was slightly lower than the total number of presentations in 2020–21 (8.81million) – a decrease of 0.2% overall.
From 2019–20 to 2020–21, the total presentations to emergency departments increased by 6.9% after a decrease of 1.4% between 2018–19 and 2019–20. Overall, there has been an increase in presentation from 321 per 1,000 population in 2017–18 to 339 per 1,000 population in 2021–22.
In 2021–22, 80% of emergency department presentations occurred between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Non-admitted patient services are provided by outpatient clinics in Australia’s public hospitals. These services include patients seeing specialist medical practitioners or allied health practitioners or having diagnostic or other procedures.
In 2020–21, 46.8 million service events were provided in outpatient clinics. Of these:
In 2021–22, the number of admissions from elective surgery waiting lists is lower compared with the last reporting year and five years ago.
Definitions of the terms used in this section are available in the Glossary.
More information about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity are available in the Admitted patient care activity area of the MyHospitals site.
From 2019–20 to 2021–22, emergency department activity was impacted by COVID-19. Further information about the impact of COVID-19 on emergency department activity is available in the Emergency department activity section of the MyHospitals site.
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