Hospital demand continues upwards

Public and private hospital admissions continue to increase, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Australian Hospital Statistics 1999-00 shows that there were 5.9 million hospital admissions recorded in 1999-00, up 2.8% compared with 1998-99.

The private hospital share was 2.0 million, approximately 6.8% up on 1998-99. Private hospital overnight stays increased by 5% and same-day stays increased by 10%.

In contrast, the public hospital share of 3.9 million was a 0.4% rise on the previous year. Overnight stays fell by about 2% and same-day stays rose by 3%.

In terms of patient-days, the private hospital increase on the previous year was around 5.1% compared with 0.6% for public hospitals.

Head of the AIHW's Patient Morbidity and Mental Health Services Unit, Jenny Hargreaves, says that the increase in private sector admissions reflected that sector's bigger increase in same-day hospitalisations.

While patient numbers were up overall, the average length of stay was unchanged in public acute hospitals at 3.9 days, while it fell slightly in private hospitals to 3.1 days.

Reasons for this difference include the different mix of cases in the two sectors, and the slower increase in same-day operations in the public sector.

'When you take the same-day admissions out of the picture, the average lengths of stay are more similar between the sectors at around 6 days, although private hospital stays are still a little shorter', Ms Hargreaves said.

'For nine out of the ten most common operations/procedures, however, the length of stay in private hospitals was higher than in public hospitals-for example, for childbirth without complications the average stay was 4.8 days in a private hospital and 3.1 days in a public hospital.'

The number of available public hospital beds nationwide continued to decline, down to 52,497 beds from 53,885 beds in 1998-99.

The average cost per stay in public hospitals (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $2,728, compared with $2,611 in 1998-99.

State figures ranged from $2,500 to $2,600 in Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia to around $2,800 in New South Wales and Tasmania, $3,200 in the Australian Capital Territory, $3,300 in Western Australia, and $3,400 in the Northern Territory. Differing State/Territory methodologies and hospital types make fine comparisons among States and Territories and years difficult.

Total public hospital expenditure in 1999-00 was $14.4 billion, an increase of 2.6% in real terms on 1998-99 expenditure.


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