Public hospitals costing more: report

Marnie Banger
(Australian Associated Press)


Spending by Australia’s public hospitals is outpacing the increase in their available beds and staff, a new report shows.

Public hospital services were funded to the tune of $71 billion in 2017/18, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s annual report on hospital funding, beds and staffing.

That figure was up 3.3 per cent on the year before, with 62 per cent of the money spent on wages and salaries.

The increase was also above the average growth in funding of 1.8 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17.

The higher spend came as the number of Australians hospitalised in the public system rose by 2.1 per cent in the year.

The number of full-time staff increased by a more modest 1.1 per cent to 373,234 in that time.

Of those staff, 42 per cent were nurses and 12 per cent were salaried medical officers.

There were about 62,000 beds available across 693 public hospitals. The number of beds available has remained fairly stable since 2013/14, fluctuating between 2.51 and 2.56 per 1000 people each year.

The vast majority (92 per cent) of funding for public hospitals came from governments, with the states and territories chipping in $27.3 billion and the federal government chipping in $21.7 billion.

Private hospitals received most of their $15.6 billion in 2016/17, the most recent year for which data is available, from non-government sources.

The state, territory and federal governments gave $4.8 billion to the 657 private hospitals, while non-government entities – including private health insurance funds – coughed up $7.8 billion.

There were 64,500 full-time staff in the private system, far fewer than the public system as most medical services are provided by visiting medical specialists who aren’t technically hospital employees.

Nurses made up more than half of staff in 2016/17, while 1400 were salaried medical professionals.

The number of private hospital beds available was 34,300, or 1.42 per 1000.

Taking both systems into account, Australia had 3.9 beds for every 1000 people, compared to an average of 4.7 across OECD nations.

That meant it ranked in the middle of the OECD and other countries.

The report has also shed light on the services public hospitals delivered to non-admitted patients in 2017/18.

People received 39 million services, 17 million of which were for allied health or at a clinical nurse intervention clinic.

Another 12.2 million were in medical consultation clinics, 5.8 million were for diagnostic services and 3.1 million were in procedural clinics.


Public hospitals:

* $71 billion in funding 2017/18

* 373,234 full-time staff

* 62,000 beds

Private hospitals:

* $15.6 billion in funding 2016/17

* 64,500 full-time staff

* 34,300 beds


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