2024 Public Hospital Report Card

An AMA analysis of Australia’s Public Hospital System

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President's Introduction

dr omar khorshid

Professor Steve Robson

Federal AMA President

The AMA Public Hospital Report Card uses data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to present a snapshot of Australia’s public hospital performance. We publish this annual report card to highlight areas of concern in our public hospital system and ensure health ministers are focused on fixing the problems. 

2024 is an incredibly important year for Australia’s public hospitals. After a decade of declining performance, health ministers late last year agreed to a new funding model for public hospitals that will see the Commonwealth increase its share of the funding and change the cap on funding growth. These were key asks in the AMA’s Clear the Logjam campaign.

How this welcome investment is used will be determined by health ministers over the coming months as they consider the findings of the Mid-Term Review of the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) Addendum 2020-2025 and negotiate the next NHRA. Health ministers must commit to genuine reform to improve our public hospitals.

We need to see the next NHRA include greater support for public hospitals to push for improved performance, with performance-based funding designed to incentivise improved patient outcomes. We need stronger alignment across our health system, including better integration with NDIS and aged care. We also need proper investment in primary care and intermediate care to alleviate the burden on our public hospitals while improving the wellbeing of Australians. 

Unfortunately, this year’s report card shows that our hospitals are at breaking point. We cannot wait until the next NHRA in 2025 to act. 

Emergency department (ED) wait times tell us how quickly patients are seen when they present to an ED. Across the country, hospital bed block is creating a situation where our EDs cannot move patients through, leading to wait times continuing to blow out.  

Incredibly, the 2022–23 national average of patients seen on time was the lowest figure in the past ten years across the four categories of Emergency (68 per cent), Urgent (58 per cent on time), Semi Urgent (68 per cent), and Non-Urgent (88 per cent). 

Planned surgery, otherwise known as elective surgery, is a fundamental part of addressing and preventing serious sickness for Australians. The longer people wait for surgery, the more they are exposed to unnecessary pain, and a greater likelihood the seriousness of their ailment worsens. Unfortunately, median wait times for planned surgery are at their longest on record at 49 days, which is 22 days longer than reported in 2003. Even though a much lower proportion of our population is being admitted to Category 2 surgery than five years ago, the proportion of people being admitted within the recommended timeframe has again fallen to the lowest point on record. 

Capacity within our public hospitals is falling across the board, but it is even more serious when viewed through the lens of an ageing population. The proportion of public hospital beds for every Australian over 65 has yet again fallen to the lowest point on record at just 14.3 beds per 1000 population, compared to 32.5 beds in 1991-92.  

It is clear for anyone to see — the numbers point to a system in dire need of urgent attention. This is why the AMA is calling for federal and state governments to invest $4.12 billion in a national plan to address the growing and increasingly critical backlog of planned surgeries until the new funding agreement is implemented.  

The AMA is advocating for these reforms at every level. We will continue to push for funding and policies to support access for our patients and protect our overworked doctors and other hospital staff.

National Public Hospital Performance

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Performance indicators and terminology used in the report card

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Data sources and References used in this report card​

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State by State Public Hospital Performance

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