Hospitalisations continue upwards

There were 6.14 million hospital admissions recorded in 2001, up 4.1% compared with 1999-00, according to Australian Hospital Statistics 2000-01, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The private hospital share was 2.27 million admissions, approximately 12% up on 1999-00. Private hospital overnight stays increased by 6% and same-day stays increased by 17%.

In contrast, the public hospital's 3.85 million was a 0.1% decrease on the previous year. Overnight stays fell by about 1.3% and same-day stays rose by 1.3%.

Private hospitals' share of hospital admissions rose from 34.3% to 37.0%.

Head of the AIHW's Hospitals and Mental Health Services Unit, Jenny Hargreaves, said that the increase in private hospital admissions reflected that sector's increase in same-day hospitalisations-192,000 more in 2000-01 than in the previous year.

'There were over 20,000 more private hospital admissions each for chemotherapy, renal dialysis and colonoscopy, all usually same day procedures. There were also 53,000 more non-same day hospitalisations in private hospitals,' Ms Hargreaves said.

Private patients can be treated in public hospitals, and public (or Medicare) patients in private hospitals. In all hospitals combined, there were 3.45 million hospitalisations for public patients (0.4% fewer than in 1999-00), and 2.12 million hospitalisations for private patients (other than DVA and compensable patients)-9.6% more than the previous year.

This increase in hospitalisations for private patients followed the rise in private health insurance coverage that occurred with the introduction of the Federal Government's 'Lifetime health cover' insurance arrangements.

The average length of stay in public acute hospitals remained the same as the previous year-3.9 days overall, and 6.4 days when same-day admissions are excluded. In private hospitals, the average length of stay continued to decrease-to 3.0 days overall, and to 5.7 days without same-day admissions.

The number of available public acute hospital beds nationwide remained about the same as the previous year-50,188 beds in 1999-00 and 50,113 beds in 2000-01.

The average cost per stay in public hospitals (adjusted for patient condition and case complexity) was $2,834 .

State figures ranged from around $2,700 in Queensland, to $2,800 in Victoria and South Australia, $2,900 in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania, and about $3,300 in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Differing State/Territory methodologies and hospital types make fine comparisons among States and Territories difficult.

Total public hospital expenditure in 2000-01 was $15.5 billion, an increase of 2.7% in real terms on 1999-00 expenditure.

The median waiting time for elective surgery in public hospitals was 27 days in 2000-01, and 90% of patients had been admitted for their surgery within 202 days. Most surgical specialties had median waiting times of less than 30 days.


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