Australian Health Directory

Public healthcare

Australian state and territory governments provide free public hospital services to public patients. Some public hospitals also treat private fee-paying patients, people with private health insurance and overseas visitors.

In 2004 there were 741 public acute hospitals and 20 public psychiatric hospitals out of 1,304 hospitals in total nationwide.

Public hospitals vary in size from small 'bush hospitals' to large metropolitan teaching hospitals, therefore bed numbers are a better indicator of treatment capacity. In 2004, public acute hospital beds numbered 50,915 and public psychiatric hospital beds 2,413 . (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2005. Australian hospital statistics 2003-04. AIHW cat. no. HSE 37. Canberra: AIHW (Health Services Series no. 23).)

In 2004-05, hospital emergency departments treated about 4.3 million people, and public hospitals admitted about 3.7 million public patients. (Australian National Audit Office. Audit Reports 2006-2007, Administration of State and Territory Compliance with the Australian Health Care Agreements)

Public hospitals are jointly funded by the Australian Government and state and territory governments pursuant to bilateral agreements for five years, the Australian Health Care Agreements. Expenditure on public hospitals accounts for about a quarter of total health expenditure. State and territory governments are accountable for the performance and financial management of their public hospitals. They allocate available resources to achieve the best health outcomes for their populations.

Hospitals in Australia become accredited through programs conducted by organisations specialising in compliance with standards, such as the Australian Quality Council, the Quality Improvement Council, the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards and the International Standards Organisation.

The sections accessible from this page include: listings of public hospitals and other public health services, state and territory bodies responsible for health care, government portals to health services and specialised care providers.