In 2002-03, over four million Australians were admitted to public hospitals

In 2002-03, over four million Australians were admitted to our public hospitals, over half a million people had elective surgery and nearly four million people went to an emergency department for treatment.

The State of our public hospitals, June 2004 report provides the community with information about the performance of Australia’s 750 public hospitals. It draws on hospital data between 1998 - 2003 provided to the Australian Government by the states and territories each year under the Australian Health Care Agreements.

Over the five years covered by this report, the Australian Government invested more than $31 billion in our public hospitals. The State of our public hospitals, June 2004 report provides information on how that money has been spent. The Australian Government will continue to publish this report annually.

The June 2004 report is the first time that data on public hospitals has been presented in this form. It includes information about what has happened in hospitals in each state and territory so everyone can see how their hospitals have performed.

Some key facts in the report are: in 2002-03, Australia’s busiest hospital was the Royal Melbourne; almost half of all patients are admitted and discharged on the same day; and the average cost for an admitted patient is about $3,000, nearly a third of which is nursing costs.

The report does highlight some differences in public hospital performances between the states and territories. South Australians are more likely to get elective surgery within the recommended time. However, Tasmanians who needed a hip replacement waited longer for their operation than people in other states and territories. People living in the ACT or Victoria had the best chance of being treated on time in an emergency department.

Although government expenditure on public hospitals has increased over the last five years, the report shows that some areas of hospital performance have gone backwards. For example, in 2002-03 people waited longer in emergency departments and for elective surgery than the recommended time, compared to 1998-99. Still, even though waiting lists are growing, 85 per cent of people are being treated within the appropriate time.

The report also shows that the number of available public hospital beds is decreasing. This shows the importance of a viable private hospital sector. With demands on our public hospital increasing, the private sector continues to relieve the pressure.

Australia’s health system is among the best in the world. This report does not support claims that there is a “crisis” in our health system. There are some problems, but the Australian Government will continue to work with the states and territories to further strengthen the health system.

A full copy of the report can be found at www.health.gov.au/ahca

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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