Hospitals and average available beds

This section presents an overview of public and private hospitals in 2017–18 and changes over time, covering the overall numbers of hospitals, local hospital networks and the number of hospital beds. It also includes an international comparison—against the OECD average for the number of hospital beds per 1,000 population, by state and territory.

Caution should be used in comparing the data for public hospitals and private hospitals as there are differences in the data definitions used between the NPHED and the PHEC.

Hospitals

The numbers of public and private hospitals in Australia can vary over time, reflecting the opening or closing of hospitals, the reclassification of hospitals as non‑hospital facilities (or vice-versa) and the amalgamation of existing hospitals.

In addition, the number of hospitals reported can be affected by jurisdictional variations in administrative and/or reporting arrangements and is not necessarily a measure of the number of physical hospital buildings or campuses. See Appendix A and Appendix B for more information.

Public hospitals

There were 693 public hospitals in 2017–18 compared with 747 in 2013–14. Much of this decrease was due to the reclassification of 46 establishments in Queensland between 2013–14 and 2014–15.

About 25% of public hospitals (179) were located in Major cities. The greatest number of public hospitals was reported for Outer regional areas (210, or 30%).

However, most of the larger public hospitals are located in the more populated areas, and this is evidenced by the number of hospital beds that were located in each remoteness area.

Private hospitals

Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, the number of private hospitals reporting to the PHEC rose from 601 to 657. Numbers of private hospitals increased for all jurisdictions.

Counts of private hospitals can also vary, depending on the source of the information. See Appendix A for more information.

Average available beds

Public hospitals

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, public hospital bed numbers rose by an average of 1.3% per year, from 58,600 to almost 62,000 beds—about one third the rate of average annual increase in public hospitalisations over the same period. Public hospital beds per 1,000 population were relatively stable, ranging between 2.5 to 2.6 beds per 1,000 population over the same period.

In 2017–18:

  • there were 61,647 available beds in public hospitals, with 2,161 (3.5%) of these in public psychiatric hospitals
  • almost 86% of beds in Public hospitals (other than psychiatric) were available for overnight stay patients
  • the proportion of beds available for same-day patients in Public hospitals (other than psychiatric) ranged from 9% in New South Wales to 20% in Queensland
  • available beds per 1,000 population in Public hospitals (other than psychiatric) ranged from 2.2 per 1,000 in Western Australia, to 2.6 per 1,000 in New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Nationally, about 68% of public hospital beds were located in Major cities (42,000 beds) and 18% were located in Inner regional areas (11,300 beds).

The number of public hospital beds per 1,000 population ranged from 2.4 beds per 1,000 population in Major cities to 4.0 beds per 1,000 population in Remote areas.

In 2017–18, Australia had 3.9 beds per 1,000 population in public and private hospitals compared with an average of 4.7 beds per 1,000 population for countries analysed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and ranked in the middle of the 35 OECD and other selected countries.

The ratio of available beds to the population does not necessarily indicate the accessibility of hospital services. A hospital can provide services for patients who usually reside in other areas of the state or territory, or in other jurisdictions. The patterns of bed availability across regions may also reflect the availability of other health-care services and patterns of disease and injury.

Private hospitals

Between 2012–13 and 2016–17:

  • private hospital bed numbers rose by an average of 3.6% per year (from 29,800 to 34,300)
  • the number of beds per 1,000 population increased from 1.31 to 1.42 per 1,000, or by an average of 2.0% per year
  • the number of licensed beds in Other private hospitals (those that do not specialise in same-day care) increased by an average of 3.6% per year, and the number of licensed beds per 1,000 population in Other private hospitals rose from around 1.18 to 1.28 beds per 1,000
  • the number of licensed beds/chairs in Private free-standing day hospital facilities increased by 3.0% each year.

In 2016–17, about 34,300 licensed beds were reported for private hospitals (data for 2017–18 are not available), with 3,310 (9.6%) of these in Private free-standing day hospital facilities.

Local hospital networks

Local hospital networks are defined as those entities recognised as such by the relevant state or territory health authority. They directly manage single or small groups of public hospital services and their budgets, and are directly responsible for hospital performance (METeOR identifier 584333).

The LHNs vary greatly in location, size and in the types of hospitals that they include. LHNs may include both public and private hospitals. The information presented below relates to public hospitals only.

In 2017–18, there were 135 LHNs, including 85 in Victoria, and 1 each in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Many LHNs in Victoria consist of a single public hospital. Other networks might consist of a Principal referral or Public acute group A hospital and a range of smaller and/or more specialised hospitals.

Where to go for more information

For more information on the number of public and private hospitals and beds

  • over time, see Table 4.1 to 4.4 and Table 4.8 to 4.11
  • by state and territory, see Table 4.5 to 4.6 and Table 4.6, 4.11. 4.12
  • by remoteness area, see Table 4.7 and Table 4.13

available for download in the Data section of this report.

For more information on

  • Local hospital networks see Table 4.15
  • OECD comparisons for average available beds per 1,000 population see Table 4.14 and Figure 4.1

available for download in the Data section of this report.

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

References

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2018. OECD.stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed April 2019. Available to access on the OECD.stat website