The objective of this study was to predict the number of cases of pressure ulcer, the bed days lost, and the economic value of these losses at Australian public hospitals. All adults (≥ 18 years of age) with a minimum stay of 1 night and discharged from selected clinical units from all Australian public hospitals in 2001–02 were included in the study. The main outcome measures were the number of cases of pressure ulcer, bed days lost to pressure ulcer, and economic value of these losses. We predict a median of 95,695 cases of pressure ulcer with a median of 398,432 bed days lost, incurring median opportunity costs of AU$285 M. The number of cases, and so costs, were greatest in New South Wales and lowest in Australian Capitol Territory. We conclude that pressure ulcers represent a serious clinical and economic problem for a resource-constrained public hospital system. The most cost-effective, risk-reducing interventions should be pursued up to a point where the marginal benefit of prevention is equalized with marginal cost. By preventing pressure ulcers, public hospitals can improve efficiency and the quality of the patient's experience and health outcome.