Private hospital emergency departments in Australia: Challenges and opportunities


  • Gerry FitzGerald, MD, FACEM, Professor; Ghasem Toloo, MA, PhD, Research Fellow; Jun He, MPH, PhD Candidate; Gavin Doig, MBA, FACEM, Director; David Rosengren, FACEM, Director; Sean Rothwell, FACEM, Director; Ron Sultana, FACEM, Director; Steve Costello, FACRRM, MRACMA, Director; Xiang-Yu Hou, PhD, Senior Lecturer.

Correspondence: Professor Gerry FitzGerald, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia. Email:



Public hospital EDs in Australia have become increasingly congested because of increasing demand and access block. Six per cent of ED patients attend private hospital EDs whereas 45% of the population hold private health insurance.


This study describes the patients attending a small selection of four private hospital EDs in Queensland and Victoria, and tests the feasibility of a private ED database.


De-identified routinely collected patient data were provided by the four participating private hospital and amalgamated into a single data set.


The mean age of private ED patients was 52 years. Males outnumbered females in all age groups except > 80 years. Attendance was higher on weekends and Mondays, and between 08.00 and 20.00 h. There were 6.6% of the patients triaged as categories 1 and 2, and 60% were categories 4 or 5. There were 36.4% that required hospital admission. Also, 96% of the patients had some kind of insurance. Furthermore, 72% were self-referred and 12% were referred by private medical practitioners. Approximately 25% arrived by ambulance. There were 69% that completed their ED treatment within 4 h.


This study is the first public description of patients attending private EDs in Australia. Private EDs have a significant role to play in acute medical care and in providing access to private hospitals which could alleviate pressure on public EDs. This study demonstrates the need for consolidated data based on a consistent data set and data dictionary to enable system-wide analysis, benchmarking and evaluation.