Hospital emergency department admissions are up

Peter Terlato 17 November 2016

operation hospital emergency

However, wait times and staff efficiency has improved.

The rate of admittance to public hospital emergency departments has been steadily increasing over the last five years, but efficiency among staff has improved, resulting in shorter wait times for patients.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) latest report Emergency Department Care 2015-16 reveals there were 7.5 million presentations to public emergency departments across Australia (excluding the ACT), the equivalent of more than 20,000 admissions per day.

This represents an average annual increase of 2.7% for the last five years, between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

While the number of patients admitted has risen steadily over the last few years, the proportion of patients "seen on time" (that is, within the time specified for their triage category) has also increased, up from 72% in 2011/12 to 74% in 2015/16.

The report also found 77% of patients requiring care within 10 minutes were treated on time, compared with 67% for those needing care within 30 minutes of arrival.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of emergency admissions were completed in four hours or less, a substantial improvement on 2011/12 statistics (64%).

In 2015/16 around 2.2 million emergency patients (29%) were admitted to hospital following treatment. Half (49%) were admitted within four hours, while the majority (90%) were admitted in under 11 hours.

The most common patients treated in public hospital emergency rooms were those aged 15-24 and 25-34, with each group accounting for about 14% of the population.

Elderly patients, 65 and over, accounted for about 20% of total presentations, while children aged 4 and under made up 11% of all admissions. A significant proportion (27%) of emergency department patients were admitted because of an injury or poisoning.

Last month the Australian Medical Association (AMA) claimed Australia had "reached a crisis point" in public hospital funding, reflected by deteriorating bed ratios and unimproved or worsening wait times.

Private health insurers could capitalise on these public system downfalls, considering 1.7 million private health customers are planning to ditch their current policies.

Trying to decide which hospital option is better for you? It's sensible to compare public and private cover, consider wait times and safety and understand how to claim health insurance when visiting.

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