In 2012-13, Australia's 601 private hospitals accounted for 45% of the country's 1,347 hospitals and 34% of all hospital beds. These private hospitals employed over 60,000 staff and had a total income of $11.8 billion.

The private hospitals can be grouped into 2 main categories: the 319 that provide services on a day-only basis ('day hospitals') and the 282 that provide overnight care ('overnight hospitals'). From 2003-04 to 2012-13, the number of beds increased by 9% in private overnight hospitals (from 24,642 to 26,889 beds) and by 51% in private day hospitals (from 1,947 to 2,938 beds).

The diversity of private hospitals

Analyses using the AIHW's new private hospital peer groups showed considerable variation in specialised facilities available, location and activity levels. For example, the 21 Private acute Group A hospitals all had 24 hour emergency service and an Intensive Care Unit, were mainly in Major cities (95%) and had an average of 33,234 separations in 2012-13. The 71 Private acute Group D hospitals had relatively few specialised services, were less likely to be in Major cities (63%), and had an average of 4,811 separations. Day hospitals were mainly in Major cities (88%). Many specialised in procedures such as endoscopy (56 hospitals), and dialysis (14).

Admitted patient care

In 2012-13, there were about 3.8 million separations in private hospitals in Australia, making up 41% of all separations. Of these, 69% (2.6 million) were same-day separations and 31% (1.2 million) were overnight separations.

Over the ten years to 2012-13, the proportion of separations that were for older age groups increased, with the greatest increase for people over 85 years (145% for males and 110% for females).

Use of private hospitals in 2012-13 was highest for those residing in Major cities (175 separations per 1,000 persons) and lowest for those residing in Very remote areas (67 separations per 1,000 persons). The highest separation rates included those in Noosa in Queensland, Ku-ring-gai in New South Wales and Holdfast Bay in South Australia.

In 2012-13, the most common same-day procedures included haemodialysis and colonoscopies. For overnight separations, the most common procedures included coronary angiography and caesarean section.

Some private hospitals voluntarily report safety and quality-of-care data. In 2012-13, 127 private hospitals reported rates of Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia, with an average rate of 0.2 cases per 10,000 days of patient care. In audits in late 2013, the average rate of hand hygiene compliance, for the 83 private hospitals for which data were available, was 82%.

Future work

While there have been improvements in recent years, there are still gaps in reporting the performance of private hospitals, and some inherent difficulties in comparing performance between the public and private hospital sectors. National work is ongoing to improve safety and quality indicators for both public and private hospitals.