Australian Hospital Statistics Report Released

29 May 2018

In May of each year the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare releases its report on admitted patient care in Australian hospitals. The report was released on the 24th May 2018.

It is interesting, if no surprise, that growth in all hospital admissions, public or private, is well in excess of population growth. In fact, hospital admissions grew between two and three times the rate.

It is also interesting to note that growth in public hospital admissions is outstripping private hospital admissions, particularly in the most recent year (2016–17), at 5.0% vs 2.3%.  We believe one of the reasons driving this pattern, is the federal government and local public hospitals encouragement of privately insured patients to use public hospitals instead!

The federal government believes that the private patients being treated in public hospitals will reduce the yearly premium rises introduced by private health insurance companies.  We believe that Private health insurance companies will continue to increase their yearly premiums “no matter what happens”. 

People are leaving Private health insurance providers in droves mainly due to the poor quality or junk policies that they are being sold that almost always result in out-of-pocket costs when using private health insurance.

Current public hospital admissions amounted to 6.6 million as compared to 4.4 million in the private system.   And the fact that public hospitals tend to treat the more serious and complex cases that result in longer lengths of stay-supports our members claims that public hospitals are massively understaffed and their workers are overworked!

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare “Admitted patient care 2016–17: Australian hospital statistics report”, in public hospitals, a large proportion of admissions (43%) were considered emergencies, while in private hospitals admissions were more likely to be elective or other planned care.

Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, the number of hospitalisations rose by an average of 4.3% each year for public hospitals and 3.6% each year for private hospitals.  These results go against previous hospital statistics where we usually saw private hospital admissions grow faster than public hospital admissions.

That is, in terms of total numbers, without taking into account case complexity. Perhaps these suggest that the private hospitals’ growth phase is significantly slowing.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare “Admitted patient care 2016–17: Australian hospital statistics report”, in 2016–17, in public hospitals 83% of separations (5.5 million) were for public patients. The remaining 17% of separations were funded by other sources. 

The bulk (912,000, 14%) was for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission. Conversely, 82% of separations in private hospitals were subsidised by private health insurance companies, 7% were self-funded and 4% were for public patients.

Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, the number of public patient separations rose by an average of 4.6% each year (and accounted for 51% of separations in 2016–17), compared with 4.3% on average each year for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission (41% in 2016–17).

The above figures and the rest of the report (which can be accessed by clicking on the link below) reinforce our view that the whole system needs an overhaul!  If we begin to change our system now, then we have a chance of delivering high quality healthcare that is affordable and safe worksites with decent working conditions for healthcare workers!

Australian Hospital Statistics Report

Kamal Bekhazi

Senior Research & Projects Officer

Health Workers Union