Hospital activity

Public and private hospitals provide a range of services, including emergency department care, admitted patient care (including for elective surgery) and outpatient care. This section provides an overview of activity in public and private hospitals in the most recent year of data available, and trends in the number of services they provided in the preceding 5 years.

Explore more information about hospital activity via the links at the bottom of the page.

Impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity in 2019–20

Australia’s hospital system has played a significant role in managing and treating people with the coronavirus virus (COVID-19). Between January to June in 2020, there were over 2,600 hospitalisations involving a COVID-19 diagnosis.

In 2019–20:

  • 25% of hospitalisations with a COVID-19 diagnosis had one or more comorbid chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes
  • 8.6% of hospitalisations involved a stay in an Intensive care unit (ICU)
  • 5.3% of hospitalisations involved Continous ventilatory support (CVS)
  • 4.0% of hospitalisations had a separation mode indicating that the patient died in hospital.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a profound impact on hospital activity more generally. The range of social, economic, business and travel restrictions, including restrictions on some hospital services, and associated measures in other healthcare services to support social distancing in Australia resulted in an overall decrease in hospital activity.

In 2019–20, the number of hospitalisations in Australia decreased by 2.8% compared to 2018–19, whereas previous year-to-year changes indicated a consistent upward trend. More information about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity can be found on the Admitted patient activity page.

For additional data relating to the impact of COVID-19 on:

Hospital activity

All data in these visualisations are available for download in the Data & downloads section of the MyHospitals website.

Admitted patient care

There were 11.1 million hospitalisations in 2019–20. This was a 2.8% decrease since 2018–19 due to the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.

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Emergency department care

There were 8.2 million emergency department presentations in 2019–20.  Young children aged 0-4 years and people over 65 had the highest rates of presentations to emergency departments.

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Non-admitted patient care

There were 38.2 million non-admitted patient service events provided by public hospitals in 2019–20. Allied health and/or clinical nurse specialist interventions were the most common clinc type that provided services.

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How is hospital activity measured?

Hospital activity is measured by the number of services provided by hospitals, including:

  • hospitalisations in public and private hospitals for admitted patient care
  • presentations to public hospital emergency departments
  • service events for non-admitted patient in public hospitals
  • admissions from elective surgery waiting lists in public hospitals.

In recent years, activity in all sectors of the Australian hospital system has increased each year, reflecting an increased demand for services. However, between 2018–19 and 2019–20, hospital activity decreased due to the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system.

Hospitalisations

In 2019–20:

  • there were 11.1 million hospitalisations in Australia, including 6.9 million same-day hospitalisations and 4.3 million overnight hospitalisations
  • the number of hospitalisations decreased by 2.8% (compared to 2018–19) due to the impact of COVID-9 on Australia's healthcare system
  • the number of same-day hospitalisations decreased by 2.1% and overnight hospitalisations decreased by 4.0%
  • hospitalisations in private hospitals decreased more than public hospitals for both same-day and overnight hospitalisations.

The decrease in activity is a contrast to previous years: between 2014–15 and 2018–19, same-day and overnight hospitalisations were increasing—same-day hospitalisations increased by 3.4%, on average, per year and overnight hospitalisations increased by 1.2%, on average, per year.

The greater decrease in overnight hospitalisations, particularly for private hospitals, was most likely attributable to the restrictions placed on selected Category 2 and Category 3 elective surgeries due to COVID-19.

Emergency department presentations

In 2019–20, emergency department activity was impacted by COVID-19. Further information about the impact of COVID-19 on emergency department activity is available in the Emergency department activity section of the MyHospitals site.

Nearly 23,000 people on average sought treatment in public hospital emergency departments each day in 2019–20. This figure increased 3.2% on average, per year, in the 5 years from 2014–15 to 2018–19.

However, between 2018–19 and 2019–20, presentations to emergency departments decreased by 1.4%, and presentations per 1,000 population decreased over this period, from 329 to 324 presentations per 1,000 population.

Almost 80% of emergency department presentations occur between 8am and 10pm.

In 2019–20, 23% patients sought treatment for injury and poisoning-related diagnoses, down from 25% in 2018–19, and 8% for a respiratory disorder .

The most common diagnoses were Abdominal and pelvic pain, Pain in throat and chest, Injury of unspecified body region and Viral infection of unspecified site.  

Non-admitted patient services

Non-admitted patient services are provided by outpatient clinics in Australia’s public hospitals. These services include patients seeing specialist medical practitioners or allied health practitioners, or having diagnostic or other procedures.

In 2019–20, 38.2 million service events were provided in outpatient clinics. Of these:

  • 48% (18.3 million) were in allied health and/or clinical nurse specialist intervention clinics
  • 29% (11.1 million) were in medical consultation clinics
  • 15% (5.7 million) were for diagnostic services
  • 8.1% (3.1 million) were in procedural clinics.

Where do I find more information?

The latest data on admitted patient care is available for download below.

More information about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital activity are available in the Admitted patient care activity area of the MyHospitals site.