Over-65s push up hospital stays

Hospitalisations in Australia increased by almost 5% in 2022-23, with patients spending almost 33 million days in hospital.

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on public and private admittance shows that people aged 65 and over accounted for 44% of hospitalisations and 51% of patient days, and the number of hospitalisations has increased from 9.7 million to 12.1 million over the past decade. 

The rate of hospitalisations relative to the population was 415 per 1,000 people in 2022-2023, which was similar to the pre-pandemic rate, with 421.7 hospitalisations per 1,000 people in 2018-2019. 

“There was a 4.6% increase in hospitalisations across all Australian hospitals during 2022–23, with hospitalisations in public and private hospitals increasing by 4.3% and 5.0% respectively compared to 2021–22,” AIHW spokesperson Ms Clara Jellie said.  

“Overall, there was a total of 12.1 million hospitalisations in 2022–23. Same-day hospitalisations across all Australian hospitals increased by 5.6% in 2022–23 compared to 2021–22.  

“There was also a 2.8% increase in the number of overnight admissions across all hospitals. Every state and territory had increases in the number of hospitalisations in public hospitals during 2022–23.” 

Australians spent a total of 33.2 million days in hospital during 2022–23, with people aged 60 and over accounting for 59% of these stays.  

“There was a 4.5% overall increase in patient days spent in hospital, including a 4.9% increase in public hospitals,” Ms Jellie said.    

“While the total number of hospitalisations increased during 2022–23, the number of hospitalisations per 1,000 people during 2022–23 (415.2) was slightly lower than in 2018–19 (421.7) but higher than it was in 2019–20 (401.2).  

“This reflects the volatility of hospital activity, including decreases in hospital activity and disruptions to staffing availability, across many states and territories in recent years due to the COVID pandemic.”  

In 2022–23 there were just under 3 million hospitalisations requiring surgery, of which and around 1.8 million surgeries were carried out in private hospitals. Some 382,000 of these were emergency surgeries, while about 2.5 million were elective. “In general, public and private hospitals tended to provide different types of care,” Ms Jellie said.  

“Profiles differ for public and private hospitals as private hospitals undertake a lot more of these surgeries but are also much more likely to perform them as an elective (planned) admission.” 

However, surgery was heavily impacted by COVID and even though the number of surgical hospitalisations increased by 7.7% in 2022–23, this followed a 5.8% decrease during the pandemic. 

Data on healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus (‘Golden staph’) bloodstream infections (SABSI) has also been released, showing that in 2022–23 there were 1,688 cases of SABSI occurring during 22.5 million days of patient care in public hospitals.