While public hospital admissions are growing steadily and in pace with those to private hospitals, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that more patients are using private health insurance in hospitals.
The report, Admitted patient care 2015-16: Australian hospital statistics, shows that there were about 10.6 million admissions to Australia's hospitals in 2015-16, with about 59% of these occurring in public hospitals.
Growth in admissions for public and private hospitals combined over the last five years was around 3.5% on average each year.
'Growth in private hospital admissions was slightly ahead of public hospital admissions, up by 3.7% and 3.3% on average yearly, respectively,' said AIHW spokesperson George Bodilsen.
However, the report shows a larger gap between growth in public patients and growth in patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission.
'In the five years to 2015-16, admissions for public patients rose by an average of 2.9% each year, compared with 5.5% for patients who used private health insurance to fund their admission,' Mr Bodilsen said.
'In public hospitals in 2015-16, 83% of admissions-or 5.2 million-were for public patients, with around 14% of patients-or 872,000-using their private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission,' Mr Bodilsen said.
The report also shows, for the first time, how elective surgery waiting times to public hospitals vary by source of funding.
The median waiting time for admission to a public hospital for elective surgery was 38 days, with significant variation recorded depending on the funding source as well as the type of surgery performed.
'Public patients had a median waiting time of 42 days for elective surgery in a public hospital, while it was 20 days for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission,' Mr Bodilsen said.