4711.0 - Occasional Paper: Hospital Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1997-98  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/06/2000   
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June 5, 2000
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

First national report on hospital admissions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Kidney dialysis, pregnancy and childbirth, respiratory diseases and injury together accounted for the majority of hospital admissions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in 1997-98, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Public hospitals provided the lion's share of services to Indigenous people, with only about 2 per cent of Indigenous hospital admissions recorded in private hospitals. Conversely, private hospitals accounted for about 32 per cent of admissions for Australians overall.

Indigenous people are not always correctly identified in hospital records, and the numbers of Indigenous admissions are likely to be under-estimated. Even so, people identified as Indigenous were almost twice as likely as the general Australian population to be admitted to hospital in 1997-98.

The difficulty in estimating the number of Indigenous admissions in a given time period also makes it hard to know for sure whether the numbers have been changing over time.

Hospital patients who were identified as Indigenous were less likely to have any operations or other procedures recorded than other patients. This was true regardless of the reason for hospitalisation (except for dialysis admissions).

Overall, a procedure was recorded for about 59 per cent of Indigenous admissions, compared with 77 per cent of other admissions (after excluding dialysis, the figures were 45 per cent for Indigenous admissions and 75 per cent for other admissions).

Admissions for dialysis, which were almost always on a same-day basis, accounted for one quarter (25 per cent) of all Indigenous admissions and about 40 per cent of all operations and procedures on Indigenous patients.

Details are in Occasional Paper: Hospital Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1997-98 (cat. no. 4711.0) available from ABS bookshops. The publication can be found on the Internet at www.abs.gov.au, together with media sound releases for radio.

If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact the ABS bookshop in your capital city.


Number One:

They are being admitted to hospital more frequently because their health status is such that they suffer conditions that require hospital treatment. The majority of hospital admissions that are required for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are for kidney dialysis, pregnancy and childbirth, respiratory disease and injuries. The kidney dialysis figures are influenced very heavily by the need for frequent admission. Treatment can occur up to three times a week and over a period of time that shows up as many hospital admissions.


Number two:

It's not always obvious whether someone is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander decent, and there are programs in place at the moment to encourage hospitals to ask that question of every patient that they admit. In some cases people will be of Aboriginal origin, in other cases some patients will be of Torres Strait Islander origin and in other cases patients may be of both origins. So it's really important that hospitals are encouraged and supported to ask that question on every admission.