Emergency departments are a critical component of Australia’s health care system. Many of Australia’s public hospitals have purpose-built emergency departments, staffed 24 hours a day, providing care for patients who require urgent medical attention.
•there were about 7.8 million presentations to Australian public hospital emergency departments, an average of more than 21,000 per day
•patients aged 4 and under (who make up less than 7% of the population) accounted for about 11% of all emergency department presentations
•patients aged 65 and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for more than 21% of emergency department presentations
•about one-quarter (or almost 2 million) of emergency department presentations had a principal diagnosis in the ICD-10-AM chapter Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes
•the two most common individual principal diagnoses reported were Abdominal and pelvic pain (4.3%), and Pain in the throat and chest (3.6%)
•about 73% of all presentations were ‘seen on time’ (within the clinically recommended time for their triage category), with almost 100% of Resuscitation patients (needs care immediately), 77% of Emergency (needs care within 10 minutes) patients, and 92% of Non-urgent (needs care within 120 minutes) ‘seen on time’
•the proportion of presentations that were ‘seen on time’ ranged from 61% in the Northern Territory to 81% in New South Wales
•about 72% of emergency department presentations were completed in 4 hours or less, varying from 64% in South Australia and the Northern Territory to 75% in New South Wales
•about 31% of patients were admitted to hospital after their emergency department care; 49% were admitted in 4 hours or less, and 90% within 10 hours and 44 minutes.
Between 2012–13 and 2016–17:
•presentations to emergency departments increased by 3.7% on average each year. After adjusting for coverage changes, presentations increased by an estimated 2.6% on average each year
•the proportion of presentations that were ‘seen on time’ (within the clinically recommended time) was fairly stable across the period, ranging from 73% (in 2012–13 and 2016–17) to 75% (in 2013–14)
•the proportion of emergency department presentations completed in 4 hours or less rose from 67% in 2012–13 to 73% in 2015–16, and decreased to 72% in 2016–17.