Access to healthcare: The critical need for hospitals

July 18, 2015 | Aged Care Management

Hospitals are closely tied to aged care.

At the latest count, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found there were a total of 753 public and 592 private hospitals in Australia. That's hospitals of all types, big and small, urban and regional.

The number of hospitals continues to grow, year after year.

These facilities play an essential role in Australia, providing a wide variety of care options for a growing population. Not to mention, having to deal with the growing number of elderly residents. With aged care facilities growing in turn, demands on hospitals will continue to ramp up.

Thankfully, the number of hospitals continues to grow, year after year.

A significant growth path, but quality is key

AIHW and Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2011-12 found that there were 592 private hospitals in Australia, across every state. In 2013-14, this number climbed significantly to reach 612 private hospitals. This is a total of 30,920 beds.

The number of hospitals is likely going to continue growing over the next few years, as the expanding population requires higher levels of care.

Working closely with aged care

It's not all smooth sailing for hospitals, however. While these facilities have to provide care to Australians of all ages, there's also growing strain from the aged care sector. Aged care providers and visiting doctors alone cannot supply the necessary level of care, and facilities rely on access to hospitals for residents. For example, a patient suffering from a disease will need to be transported (often on a regular basis) to a local hospital for checks and care.

There's also the need for a high level of palliative care. Australian Ageing Agenda spoke with Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan, who outlined the necessity of delivering high quality care.

"Many Australians die in hospital, despite more than 70 per cent wanting to die at home. It is vital that those who are receiving care in hospital are well served by a multidisciplinary team with the patient at the centre of care."

Are small hospitals the answer?

At first glance, large hospitals will likely appear to be the possible option for meeting patient demand, given the higher numbers of qualified staff and often extensive facilities. But it pays to look at another option. By going smaller, it's possible to ensure care is available for a larger number of residents across a wider area.

There are a substantial number of smaller hospitals throughout Australia, with many located in remote and regional areas as a way of providing care for those outside of large population centres. While these facilities lack many of the more intensive care options, they're suitable for many of the day-to-day health issues that elderly Australians require.

Hospitals play an essential role in aged care.Hospitals play an essential role in aged care.

What's more, given the number of these hospitals and their wider geographical spread (not to mention ease of access), aged care facilities can more work closely with them to provide the necessary services to residents. That's not to mention the levels of satisfaction patients record when attending these facilities.

The recently released Small Hospitals Patient Experience Survey 2014 contained results from 9347 interviews across 83 small hospitals, and noted high satisfaction.

"Statewide results show that 97 per cent of surveyed patients were satisfied with the care they received," explained Chief Operations Officer, Dr Michael Cleary. "This is a good sign that our hospitals are largely meeting our communities' needs and expectations."

Smaller hospitals could prove to be one of the better options for elderly Australians. Certainly, they're in the right locations and deliver a high level of care.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities for success in the aged care industry today? Please contact us and let us know!