Diversity of public hospitals

Australia’s 693 public hospitals are very diverse. This diversity can be described in various ways, including by:

  • public hospital peer groups—which classify public hospitals into groups of similar hospitals 
  • hospital size—based on the number of average available beds
  • the availability of specialised service units
  • specialised admitted patient clinical units (Service Related Groups)—representing clinical divisions of hospital activity.

Peer groups

All states and territories had at least one Principal referral hospital and at least one Public acute group A hospital. Women’s and children’s hospitals were located in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Psychiatric hospitals were located in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

All Principal referral hospitals had 24-hour emergency departments, outpatient clinics and provided elective surgery. On average, Principal referral hospitals had 653 beds. 

Most Public acute group A hospitals had 24-hour emergency departments (60 out of 63), most provided elective surgery (59 out of 63) and all had outpatient clinics. On average, Public acute group A hospitals had 279 beds.

Specialised service units

In 2017–18, the most common specialised service units offered by public hospitals were Domiciliary care (provided by 354 public hospitals), followed by those for Nursing home care (provided by 285 public hospitals) and Obstetric/maternity services. There were 82 Intensive care units (level III and above), and 32 Neonatal intensive care units (level III and above).

Service related groups

The Service Related Groups (SRGs) classification categorises admitted patient episodes into groups representing specialised clinical units (or divisions) of hospital activity. The SRG classification can be used to help plan services, to analyse and compare hospital activity, to examine patterns of service needs and access, and to project potential trends in services.

The number of public hospitals reporting more than 360 patient days in an SRG can be used as an indicative measure of the number of specialised clinical units, as it indicates that at least 1 bed was occupied for most of the year for the SRG.

The availability of specialised clinical units varies by both the remoteness area (of the hospital) and the peer group of the hospital.

More than 60% of Drug and alcohol specialised clinical units were located in Major cities and 54% of Renal dialysis specialised clinical units were in Regional areas (comprising Inner regional and Outer regional areas combined) areas.

Where to go for more information

More information on hospital characteristics, including:

  • specialist services units by peer groups see Table 5.1 and Table 5.2
  • hospital size see Table 5.3
  • specialised service units see Table 5.4, 5.5 and 5.6
  • service related groups see Table C2, C.S1, and Table C.S3 to C.S6
  • detailed information for each public hospital included in the NPHED see Table AS.1

are available to download in the Data section of this report.

Information on hospital peer groups is available in the AIHW report Australian hospital peer groups.

Selected information for individual public hospitals is available on the AIHW’s MyHospitals website. The information includes:

  • number of available beds (as a range)
  • services provided at the hospital.

More information on services provided for admitted and non-admitted patients is available in:

Information on data limitations and methods is available in Appendixes A and B.