Date: May 02 2012
More than 17,000 hospital admissions might have been avoided last year if the patients had been vaccinated, according to figures issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Hospital statistics published by the institute show that there were 17,300 hospitalisations for vaccine-preventable conditions in 2010-11, including 165 cases in the ACT.
The majority of the cases - 12,790 nationally and 143 in the ACT - were for influenza or pneumonia.
Other diseases included tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and polio.
Influenza Specialist Group Chairman Alan Hampson said the number of flu and pneumonia cases were probably under-recorded in hospital statistics because the diseases often led to other serious health problems.
''People actually suffer things such as myocardial infarction and stroke and kidney problems and the like as a follow-on from flu,'' he said.
Dr Hampson said many people in the medical community and the general public would also be surprised at how many deaths were influenza-related.
''Flu doesn't even rate on the death certificate. But if you actually do the analysis of what happens when flu is there, compared with not, you find that there's somewhere between 2000 to 3000 deaths per year on average due to influenza,'' he said.
''Doctors don't always see this and public health people don't always see this.''
Australian Medical Association federal president Steve Hambleton said vaccination could save many people from becoming seriously ill with flu.
''Old people may still get the flu. What we're trying to avoid is the serious complications and death,'' Dr Hambleton said.
''Young people are likely not even to get the flu if they are vaccinated and with children we go back to the same thing as adults - they may get the flu but they don't get the pneumonias and die from it.''
The Institute of Health and Welfare Hospital statistics estimated that between vaccine-preventable conditions and acute and chronic conditions, there were more than 640,000 potentially preventable hospitalisation in 2010-11.
ACT Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher seized on statistics in the report that showed that ACT residents were more likely to use public hospitals than other Australians.
The report showed that 272.3 in every thousand ACT residents used a public hospital compared with 225.9 nationally.
More than 6 per cent of patients in ACT hospitals opted to use their private health insurance compared with 11.72 per cent Australia-wide.
''Despite our high standard of living meaning we have the highest rate of private health insurance in Australia, Canberrans use their insurance less than other Australians because our public hospitals are so good,'' Ms Gallagher said.
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