The number of patients being treated in both public and private hospitals in Australia each year continues to increase according to Australian Hospital Statistics 1996-97 a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Between 1995-96 and 1996-97, the number of separations in public acute hospitals increased by 2% to over 3.6 million. In private hospitals the increase was 7% to 1.7 million. Overall, 32% of admissions are now to private hospitals. (For most purposes, a separation can be referred to as an episode in hospital.)
Report co-author, Ms Jenny Hargreaves, said that the increase in throughput in hospitals can be explained by the decline in the average length of stay. In public acute hospitals it declined from 4.3 to 4.2 days, and in private hospitals from 3.7 to 3.5 days. Ms Hargreaves said 'This is associated with the increasing proportion of same day hospital stays.'
In public acute hospitals 42% of hospital episodes were same day separations, and 51% of private hospital episodes were for same day separations.
On an age-standardised basis, the pattern of hospital usage results in separations for Indigenous patients being 86% higher (531 per 1,000) than for the overall Australian population (285 per 1,000). Ms Hargreaves said that 'it is likely that identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is incomplete and that the figures for them are underestimated.'
Australian Hospital Statistics also looks at the costs of an episode in hospital. Dr Janis Shaw, the report's co-author, said that for the first time, the cost per casemix-adjusted separation has been included in Australian Hospital Statistics however comparisons between states remain problematic. Casemix-adjustment accounts for differences in the complexity of cases treated in different hospitals. In 1996-97 the cost in public acute hospitals was $2,496 nationally. In NSW it was $2586, Victoria $2353, Queensland $2354, South Australia $2309, and $3689 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Other findings in Australian Hospital Statistics include:
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