Public hospitals: waiting times up, number of beds down

Peter Terlato 25 October 2016

hospital waiting room

Not meeting required performance targets.

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) Public Hospital Report Card suggests Australia has "reached a crisis point" in public hospital funding, reflected in deteriorating bed number ratios and unimproved or worsening waiting times.

Comparing the number of available beds against the size of the population provides a mixed result, given the elderly are more likely to have hospital episodes than younger people.

Even so, despite total public hospital bed numbers increasing slightly in 2013/14 (256 extra beds year-on-year), the ratio of bed numbers per 1,000 of the general population dropped from 2.57 in 2012-13 to 2.51 in 2013/14.

This ratio has not seen any improvement since 2009/10.

The number of available public hospital beds per 1,000 population aged 65 and over has fallen 42% since 1993/94.

For emergency departments to provide efficient and timely care, performance targets advocate that at least 80% of emergency triage patients be seen within 30 minutes of arrival and 90% of patients leave the emergency department within four hours.

However in 2014/15, only 68% of emergency patients classified as urgent were seen within the recommended time frame and just 73% of all emergency department visits were completed in four hours or less.

Elective surgery waiting times reduced by 24 hours in 2014/15, returning to levels last seen in 2009/10. Despite these improvements, national median waiting times for all elective surgery have increased over the last decade.

No single Australian state's public hospitals met all the recommended performance targets for access, waiting times and surgery in 2014/15.

The best performer was the Northern Territory, which saw improvement in emergency department waiting times and elective surgery waiting times, although these did not meet national targets.

The only state hospital system to meet any of the national targets was NSW for elective surgery.

State/TerritoryImprovement in emergency department waiting timeMet National Emergency Access TargetImprovement in elective surgery waiting timeMet national elective surgery target
NSWNONONOYES
VICNONOYESNO
QLDNONOYESNO
WANONONONO
SANONONONO
TASNONONONO
ACTNONOYESNO
NTYESNOYESNO

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.

Latest health insurance headlines

Picture: Shutterstock

Compare health insurance on finder.com.au

Compare all health 35 funds today
Compare all health 35 funds today

Compare all 35 private health funds and quotes for 65,000 policies.

More info...
Latest health insurance member discounts
Latest health insurance member discounts

Compare the latest member discounts and benefits from health funds.

More info...
Compare combined health insurance
Compare combined health insurance

Get health insurance with extras and hospital cover in one policy.

More info...
Health insurance for overseas visitors
Health insurance for overseas visitors

Compare overseas visitor health cover offered by participating funds.

More info...

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Disclaimer: At finder.com.au we provide factual information and general advice. Before you make any decision about a product read the Product Disclosure Statement and consider your own circumstances to decide whether it is appropriate for you.
Rates and fees mentioned in comments are correct at the time of publication.
By submitting this question you agree to the finder.com.au privacy policy, receive follow up emails related to finder.com.au and to create a user account where further replies to your questions will be sent.

Ask a question
feedback