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Australia's hospital admissions rising

20 March, 2015

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that there were well over 9 million admissions to Australian hospitals in 2013-14, and this figure is on the rise.

The report, Admitted patient care 2013-14: Australian hospital statistics, shows that of the 9.7 million admissions to hospitals in 2013-14, 5.7 million were in public hospitals and 4 million were in private hospitals.

'While the majority of hospital admissions in Australia in 2013–14 were to public hospitals, the number of admissions to private hospitals is increasing at a faster rate,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

'Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the number of admissions increased by 3 per cent on average each year for public hospitals and 3.6 per cent for private hospitals.'

In total, the 9.7 million hospital admissions in 2013-14 were associated with almost 27.9 million days of patient care – 18.8 million and 9.1 million in public and private hospitals, respectively.

'Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the number of days of patient care increased at a slower rate than admissions – by about 1 per cent each year,' Hargreaves said.

'Indigenous Australians were hospitalised at more than twice the rate of other Australians,' Hargreaves said.

The report shows that about one in four admissions involved surgery, and 60 per cent of these occurred in private hospitals.

'About 6 per cent of hospitalisations were potentially preventable and a further 6 per cent were for injury or poisoning,' Hargreaves said.

In 2013-14, the most common single reason for care was dialysis for kidney disease (1.3 million admissions) and these increased by 3.9 per cent on average each year between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

For the first time, information is included on intensive care. In 2013-14, about 2 per cent of public hospital admissions involved a stay in an intensive care unit, with an average length of stay of just under 4 days.

The report is a welcome update on the state of Australian hospitals, but the AMA is concerned that this report is lacking data on a key performance indicator – the number of hospital beds.

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler said it does not report the number of beds available in public hospitals, a statistic traditionally included in this report.

"The number of beds is key information about the capacity of our hospital system to meet the community's needs for acute medical care, and it is a mystery why it is missing. The AMA hopes to see bed number statistics in future reports," A/Prof Owler said.

"The data that is published, however, shows that, of the 9.7 million admissions to hospitals in 2013-14, 5.7 million were in public hospitals and 4 million were in private hospitals.

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