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New Zealand's public hospitals busier than ever

23 August 2006

New Zealand's public hospitals busier than ever

New Zealand's public hospitals recorded their busiest year on record in 2005/06, according to initial data released today by Health Minister Pete Hodgson.

The data reveals that there has been a 17.7 per cent increase in total hospital inpatient activity since the election of the Labour-led government in 1999. More medical patients have been seen and significantly more people are receiving both acute and elective surgical procedures.

Pete Hodgson welcomed the news that public hospitals are continuing to perform strongly, but cautioned that the future success of the health system relies on the ability to prevent hospitalisations.

"New Zealand's public hospitals are not only growing in number, they're getting busier and busier every year," Pete Hodgson said. "I'm glad to see our hospitals performing so strongly, but I don't think anyone should see increased pressure on our secondary services as a 'good story'.

"We will continue to invest heavily in secondary care, but everyone agrees that we must do more to prevent the growing number of hospitalisations. We know that avoidable hospitalisations are consuming as much as 10 per cent of the health budget and are causing a great deal of unnecessary pain for families."

Highlights from the initial 2005/06 data include:

- Total inpatient surgical activity has increased by 5.7 per cent since 1999/00
- The number of New Zealanders receiving elective surgery has increased by 6.2 per cent – on a case-weighted basis elective surgery has increased by 21.3 per cent
- Medical discharges reached 317,000 in 2005/06 – a 29.5 per cent increase on 1999/00

The initial data also reveals that DHBs were on target to increase the number of inpatient elective procedures performed in the past year until thousands of operations were cancelled during the junior doctors strike.

DHBs have already reported that 105,437 elective inpatient procedures were performed in 05/06 – this number will increase as records are completed in the coming months. Pete Hodgson announced earlier in the year that a new outpatient database would start to give a clearer picture of how many elective procedures are performed during the 2006/07 financial year.

Number of discharges

1999/2000 2004/2005 2005/2006

Elective surgical 99,256 107,897 105,437
Acute surgical 141,724 147,219 149,220
Surgical 240,980 255,116 254,657
Medical 244,905 306,813 317,260
Total inpatient activity 485,885 561,929 571,917

Case-weighted discharges
1999/2000 2004/2005 2005/2006
Elective surgical 109,414 125,679 132,693
Acute surgical 162,618 175,380 179,506
Surgical 272,032 301,059 312,199

Extracted from dynamic database
2005/06 totals expected to increase as final data is received


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