This report presents information relating to emergency department care in major public hospitals and public hospital elective surgery waiting times for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010. Timely provision of these data by state and territory health authorities has allowed this information to be reported within 5 months of the collection period for the first time, making this report more timely and relevant than previously.

Emergency department care

hospitals in 2009–10, an increase of 4.9% on average each year between 2005–06 and 2009–10. Overall, treatment by a medical officer or nurse commenced within 23 minutes of presenting to the emergency department for 50% of patients and within 115 minutes of presentation for 90% of patients.

Since 2005–06, the overall proportion of patients seen on time has been 69% to 70% each year. For 2009–10, 70% of patients were seen on time (for their triage or urgency category), as were 100% of resuscitation patients (those requiring treatment immediately) and 78% of emergency patients (requiring treatment within 10 minutes). The proportion of patients seen on time ranged from 56% for the Northern Territory to 75% for New South Wales. For New South Wales, 50% of presentations were treated by a medical officer or nurse within 20 minutes and, for the Northern Territory, 50% of presentations were treated within 38 minutes.

About 3.8% of emergency department presentations in Principal referral and Specialist Women's and children's hospitals and Large hospitals were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For those hospitals, about 66% of Indigenous Australians were seen on time, compared with 68% for Other Australians.

Elective surgery waiting times

In 2009–10, Australia’s public hospitals admitted about 606,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists.

Between 2005–06 and 2009–10, admissions from elective surgery waiting lists increased by an average of 2.1% per year. There was a higher than average increase in admissions between 2007–08 and 2008–09 (5.2%), associated with the Elective Surgery Waiting List Reduction Plan implemented by the Australian Government and states and territories over that period.

In 2009–10, 50% of patients waited 35 days or less for public elective surgery, ranging from 27 days in Queensland to 73 days in the Australian Capital Territory. This continued the upward trend in waiting times over the period 2005–06 to 2009–10, with the median waiting time increasing from 32 days in 2005–06. Between 2005–06 and 2009–10, the proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be admitted for their surgery decreased from 4.6% to 3.6%.

The median waiting time for Indigenous Australians, was higher than for Other Australians (38 and 33 days, respectively) (excludes data for New South Wales), and a higher proportion of patients waited greater than 365 days for Indigenous Australians (4.5%) compared with Other Australians (2.7%).