Emergency departments (EDs) are an essential component of Australia’s health care system. Many of Australia’s public hospitals have purpose‑built emergency departments, staffed 24 hours a day, providing care for patients who require urgent medical attention.

This report presents information on care provided in public hospital EDs between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. It includes information on overall activity, nationally agreed performance indicators on waiting times for care, time spent in the ED, and other waiting times statistics. It also includes comparative information for the previous 4 reporting periods.

Emergency department care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics continues the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW), Australian hospital statistics series of annual reports describing the characteristics and activity of Australia’s hospitals.

Emergency department activity increasing

In 2017–18, more than 8 million patients presented to Australian public hospital EDs—an average of about 22,000 patients per day. This was 3.4% higher than the previous year (compared with 2.7% growth per year over the past 4 years).

Principal diagnoses in the ICD-10-AM chapter Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes accounted for about one in four presentations (almost 2 million). These include fractures, burns, toxic effects of medicinal and non-medicinal substances, and other complications.

Patients aged 4 years and under (who make up less than 7% of the population (ABS 2018) accounted for 11% of presentations, and patients aged 65 years and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for 22% of presentations.

Older patients were more likely to be assigned a triage category of Resuscitation, Emergency or Urgent than younger patients. Older patients were also more likely to be subsequently admitted to the hospital.

Around three-quarters of patients received care on time

In 2017–18, 72% of patients were ‘seen on time’, including almost all of those requiring immediate care and 76% of those requiring care within 10 minutes. This proportion has declined since 2013–14 (75%).

Of all emergency presentations:

  • 90% of patients were seen within 1 hour and 39 minutes. This measure was fairly consistent over the previous four years, varying from 1 hour 33 and minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes.
  • 50% of patients were seen within 19 minutes, consistent with waiting times for the previous year, and similar to waiting times in 2013–14 (18 minutes).

Fewer ED visits were completed within 4 hours

In 2017–18:

  • overall, 71% of ED visits were completed within 4 hours—ranging from 61% in South Australia to 76% in Western Australia
  • 90% of ED visits were completed within 7 hours and 13 minutes.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2018. ABS. Viewed 20 September 2018. View this report on the ABS web site.