Australian hospital statistics 2006–07 is the fourteenth annual report on the characteristics and activity of Australia’s hospitals. Included in the report are public acute hospitals, public psychiatric hospitals, private free-standing day hospital facilities and other private hospitals.

This report describes information on a variety of aspects of Australia’s hospital services, including admitted patient care, elective surgery waiting times, non-admitted emergency department care, outpatient care, and public hospital expenditure and resources.

Admitted patient care

During 2006–07, there were 7.6 million separations from Australian hospitals accounting for over 24.9 million patient days, compared to 7.3 million separations and 24.3 million patient days in 2005–06. The majority of separations (61%) and patient days (67%) were from public acute hospitals. Most separations were for same-day care (56%). The average length of stay for all hospitals decreased by 19.1% between 1997–98 and 2006–07, from 4.1 days to 3.3 days. In 2006–07 for public acute hospitals, the average length of stay was 3.6 days; in private hospitals it was 2.5 days.

In 2006–07, 37.2% of separations had a principal diagnosis that derived from one of five groups of conditions: Diseases of the digestive system; Neoplasms; Diseases of the circulatory system; Pregnancy,  childbirth and the puerperium; and Injury and poisoning. The National Health Priority Areas were represented by some high-volume diagnoses. These included separations with a principal diagnosis of fracture (173,000), asthma (37,000), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (55,000), arthritis (89,000), angina pectoris (75,000) and diabetes mellitus (78,000).

Females accounted for 53% of hospital separations with a separation rate of 383.5 per 1,000 compared to 345.5 per 1,000 for males. Indigenous Australians had high rates of hospitalisation with a separation rate of 868.3 per 1,000 population compared to 352.6 per 1,000 for other persons (noting that the Indigenous status data need improvement).

Waiting times for elective surgery

In 2006–07, there were almost 557,000 admissions for elective surgery in public hospitals reported to the National Elective Surgery Waiting Times Data Collection. The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals was 32 days. Cardio-thoracic surgery had the shortest median waiting time (12 days); Ophthalmology had the longest median waiting time (71 days). Approximately 3.1% of people admitted for elective surgery from the elective surgery waiting lists had waited more than 365 days.

Emergency department care

In 2006–07, there were about 6.7 million accident and emergency department occasions of service provided in Australia’s public hospitals. Of those presentations for which triage category and waiting times data are available (approximately 5.3 million presentations), 70% were seen within the time specified as appropriate for their triage category. In Principal referral and Specialist women and children’s hospitals, the proportion seen on time was 66%; in Large hospitals the proportion was 73%.

Outpatient activity

Excluding services in emergency departments, there were approximately 39.9 million individual and group non-admitted patient occasions of service in public hospitals during 2006–07. About 16.0 million of these occasions of service were in outpatient clinics. Of those individual outpatient episodes for which clinic-level information was available (approximately 11.5 million episodes), 2.2 million were occasions of service in Allied health clinics, and 2.2 million were in Medical clinics. Records were also provided for about 99,000 group occasions of service. Approximately 41,000 of these group sessions occurred in Allied health clinics.

Hospital resources and expenditure

In 2006–07, Australia had 739 public acute hospitals, 19 public psychiatric hospitals, 265 private free-standing day hospital facilities and 278 other private hospitals. In 2006–07, there were almost 83,000 available hospital beds in Australia, with almost 56,000 available beds in public acute and psychiatric hospitals and almost 27,000 in private hospitals. The number of available beds in public acute hospitals increased by an average of 1.8% annually, and the number of available beds/chairs in private hospital facilities increased by an average of 0.4% annually, between 2002–03 and 2006–07.

Between 1997–98 and 2006–07, the number of full-time equivalent staff in public acute and public psychiatric hospitals increased by an average of 3.3% per year (from 175,024 to 234,717). Over the same period, the number of salaried medical officers increased by an average of 5.3% per year (from 15,387 full-time equivalents to 24,526).

Recurrent expenditure on public acute and public psychiatric hospitals was $26,290 million in 2006–07, 5.6% greater than expenditure in 2005–06 after adjusting for inflation. Salary payments accounted for 62% of total recurrent expenditure in 2006–07, and Medical and surgical supplies for 9%. In public acute hospitals, the average cost per separation was $3,922 excluding depreciation and $4,067 including depreciation.