Public Hospital Report Card 2023

Performance indicators and terminology used in this Report Card

The AMA uses following indicators to measure the performance of Australian public hospitals:

Public hospital capacity

The number of available public hospital beds relative to the size of the Australian population, including available public hospital beds per 1,000 people aged 65 years and over.

Emergency department waiting and treatment times

  • Proportion of patients seen within the clinically recommended timeframes set by the Australian Triage Scale; and
  • Length of stay for emergency department care, proportion of patients staying for four hours or less.
  • Proportion of patients seen within the clinically recommended timeframes set by the Australian Triage Scale,1 maximum waiting time for medical assessment and treatment:
    • Category 1 - Immediate treatment
    • Category 2 - 10 minuts
    • Category 3 - 30 minutes
    • Category 4 - 60 minutes
    • Category 5 - 120 minutes
  • Length of stay for emergency department care, proportion of patients staying for four hours or less.

Planned Surgery Waiting and Treatment times

  • The median waiting time for planned surgery - number of days within which 50 per cent of patients were admitted for their planned surgical procedure; and
  • The percentage of Category 2 patients – clinically indicated to be treated/receive surgery within 90 days, treated within the clinically recommended timeframe.

Hidden waiting list

The period between the General Practitioner’s or other health practitioners’ referral and the patient seeing a specialist in the public hospital system and being officially added to the planned surgery list.

Funding for public hospitals

  • Public hospital expenditure per person (constant prices).

Previous AMA Public Hospital Report Cards used ‘Elective Surgery’ as a term to describe surgeries that are planned in the public hospital system, and where the admission of patients did not go via Emergency Department. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) defines elective surgery as “planned surgery that can be booked in advance as a result of a specialist clinical assessment. Elective surgery is considered medically necessary, and may be required urgently, but is not conducted as a result of an emergency presentation.”2

Due to the potential misunderstanding of the term ‘Elective” in the broader public, from this Report Card, the AMA will use the term “Planned Surgery” instead of Elective Surgery to highlight the medical necessity of the surgery that is required to improve the patient’s health and wellbeing and is planned in accordance with the triage scale and the health system’s capacity, as opposed it being something that is patient’s choice and may not be seen as necessary.


1 Australian College of Emergency Medicine. Australasian Triage Scale (ATS) https://acem.org.au/Content-Sources/Advancing-Emergency-Medicine/Better-Outcomes-for-Patients/Triage

2Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2023. Reports and Data. Hospitals. Elective Surgery https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/myhospitals/sectors/elective-surgery