Public Hospital Report Card 2023

Australian Capital Territory

AMA ACT President’s Introduction

Prof Walter Abhayaratna OAM

AMA ACT President

There is a reasonable expectation that our Nation’s capital should represent the best version of Australia, including its performance in the health sector.

This year, as in recent years, the ACT public hospital performance sits disappointingly below the expected standard on measures that are considered to be important to consumers and the quality of healthcare – how long it takes to be seen when you present to the emergency department with a condition considered by healthcare providers as urgent; how long it takes for the emergency department care, regardless of whether the decision is to discharge from the emergency department, admit to hospital or appropriately transfer to another hospital for further care. Access to non-urgent (yet essential) surgery, whilst not the worst in the country, considerably lags the performance in other jurisdictions.

Another annual reminder of the suboptimal public hospital performance is not only disappointing to consumers in the Australian Capital Territory, it defies the efforts of healthcare providers in the ACT public hospitals who work tirelessly and often against a healthcare ecosystem that is geared to generate these less-than-ideal results year-on-year. Yes, we can do better; but it will require changes that address systemic challenges including a primary healthcare system that is under-resourced and a fragmented healthcare system that requires urgent reform through collaboration between our Territory government and the Federal government. If we are unable to achieve this collaboration in the Nation’s capital, then where can we….?

Concerningly, the Australian Capital Territory may be the canary in the mine for the Australian healthcare system given the dynamics of the vicious downward cycle occurring in the primary healthcare sector across the country. It is time to stop shifting blame to a single stakeholder in the healthcare system…..and it is time to ensure the ‘short-term fixes’ are not put forward and implemented when they have an adverse effect on the fundamental reforms required to address the ‘whole-of-system’ challenges and promote integrated and high-value care.


Emergency department

Although the total number of emergency department presentations in 2020-21 in the ACT rose by 9 per cent compared to the year before,74 in 2021-22, that number dropped by 6.5 per cent (about 10,000 less presentations).75

Waiting times

Percentage of Triage Category 3 (Urgent) emergency department patients seen within recommended time (< 30 minutes) - Australian Capital Territory

Only 36 per cent of Category 3 presentations in the Australian Capital Territory were seen on time in 2021-22 reporting period. This is a one per cent increase on the year before.

Source: The State of our Public Hospitals (DOHA 2004-2010). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Emergency department care 2010-2021-22

Percentage of emergency department visits completed in four hours or less – Australian Capital Territory

Almost one in two patients (48 per cent) spent longer than 4 hours in the ACT emergency departments in 2021-22. ACT is the worst performer on this indicator.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Emergency department care (2011-12 to 2020-21): Australian hospital statistics.
Note: National emergency access targets were abolished with effect from 1 July 2015

Planned surgery

Waiting times

The wait times for planned surgery in the ACT improved slightly in 2021-22 compared to the year before, from 49 days in 2020-21 to 43 days, ACT was still below the national average and the median wait time in the Australian Capital Territory was 18 days longer than the best performing state.

Median waiting time for elective surgery (days) - Australian Capital Territory

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Elective surgery data cubes (2001-02 to 2006-07): Australian hospital statistics. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Elective surgery waiting times (2007-08 to 2020-21): Australian hospital statistics

Category 2 patients

Percentage of Category 2 elective surgery patients admitted within the recommended time (90 days) Australian Capital Territory

Source: The State of Our Public Hospitals (DoHA 2004-2010) FOI request reference 253-1001 lodged June 2011. 2011-12 estimate based on State and Territory Government published data; State and Territory data for 2012 calendar year published by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National emergency access and elective surgery targets 2012: Australian hospital statistics. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Elective surgery waiting times 2013-14 to 2021-22: Australian hospital statistics.
2010-12 data not available

Public hospital funding

The most recent public hospital funding data is 2020-21, so it is partially affected by COVID-19.

Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory government per person funding for public hospitals (constant prices)76

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Health Expenditure Australia: 2008-09 to 2019-20 viewed 10 February 2023 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/health-welfare-expenditure/health-expenditure-australia-2019-20/contents/main-visualisations/overview

2008-09 to 2012-13 2013-14 to 2017-18 2018-19 to 2020-21 2008-09 to 2020-21
ACT Government 2.2% -1.1% 9.3% 1.71%
Commonwealth 3.4% 3.5% -4.7% -2.48%

74 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022. Australian Hospital Statistics: Emergency department care 2020-21 Table 2.2 viewed 2 February 2022 https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0d0d6cbf-e764-4a89-a71a-b03c5156235d/Emergency-Department-Care-2020-21.xlsx.aspx

75 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2023. Australian Hospital Statistics: Emergency department care 2021-22 Table 2.2 viewed 17 February 2023

76 Note: The funding data in the AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2022 differs slightly compared to the Public Hospital Report Card 2021 for the Australian Capital Territory. The data change is in line with the latest updates from AIHW and their ongoing work program to consolidate the data. For more information see Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Health Expenditure Australia: 2019-20 – Different Reports on Health Expenditure https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/health-welfare-expenditure/health-expenditure-australia-2019-20/contents/comparison-and-alignment-of-health-expenditure-estimates/different-reports-on-health-expenditure