ACT News

ACT public hospital admissions rise by 10 per cent as government seeks new alternatives to meet demand

The number of admissions to ACT public hospitals has increased by nearly 10 per cent during the past five years as the government prepares to launch a new hospital to cater for growing demand.

A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found there were 92,019 admissions to the Canberra and Calvary Hospitals during 2013-14, with 18 per cent of recorded presentations involving NSW residents.

The report, published on Thursday, comes just days after the ACT government revealed a new 140-bed public hospital at the University of Canberra would cost more than $100 million.

Construction on the hospital is set to begin in early 2016 and cater for people with dementia and the healthcare challenges associated with an ageing population, including rehabilitation and supportive care.

According to the report, the number of patient days in ACT hospitals increased by nearly 3 per cent since 2009-10 to 332,798 – the second highest increase in Australia behind the Northern Territory at 3.1 per cent.

AIHW spokeswoman Jenny Hargreaves said while the majority of hospital admissions in Australia were to public hospitals, the number of admissions to private hospitals was increasing at a faster rate. 

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"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," she said.

According to the report, the average length of stay in ACT public hospitals was 3.4 days, but after excluding same-day presentations the rate climbed to 6.3 days – the highest rate in Australia.

ACT Health Minister Simon Corbell said the increasing demand on the health system was a major consideration in the planning of the new hospital and, along with the need to cater for an ageing population.

"The new University of Canberra Public Hospital will provide essential support to assist the increasing number of people accessing care in the ACT," he said.

"The new sub-acute wards, rehabilitation services at the University of Canberra Public Hospital will allow the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital to deliver increase levels of care."  

Mr Corbell said the government was working closely with NSW Health to ensure interstate patients are able to receive treatment closer to their home when possible.

"ACT Health is also working with Queanbeyan Hospital to allow patients to access services  across the border in Queanbeyan if clinically appropriate," he said.

The report found there were 6735 potentially preventable hospitalisations at a rate of 18.5 cases per 1000 people in the ACT, the lowest in Australia.

There were 361 vaccine-preventable conditions at a rate of 0.9 presentations per 1000 people – the second lowest rate in the country.

The report also found the ACT had the highest rate of hip surgery in Australia at a rate of 226 cases per 100,000 people, higher than the national average of 155.4 and the OECD average of 160.4.

More than 52,000 presentations were considered non-emergency procedures while another 38,000 were classed as emergencies.

Another 5000 involved childbirth while 1300 involved specialist mental health.

Ms Hargreaves said the number of patient care days in Australia had increased at a slower rate than admissions by about 1 per cent each year.

"Indigenous Australians were hospitalised at more than twice the rate of other Australians," she said.

"About 6 per cent of hospitalisations were potentially preventable and a further 6 per cent were for injury or poisoning."