Dispelling the Myths

There are a lot of myths in the community about the breadth and depth of services provided by Australia’s private hospitals – we do so much more than people think. Here, we address and dispel the common myths and misunderstandings that many Australians believe about private hospitals.

Myth: Private Hospitals don’t offer everything the public system does. They pick and choose the simpler and more profitable services.

FACT: Private hospitals do undertake complex treatments. In fact, in 2011–12, private hospitals provided 704 of the total 708 different procedures and treatments offered in Australian public hospitals, including complex surgery such as cardiac surgery.

Private hospitals undertake the majority of in-hospital chemotherapy, the bulk of hospital care for veterans, the majority of hip and knee surgery, eye surgery and in-patient rehabilitation. Private hospitals play a crucial role obstetrics, speciality mental health care and palliative care.

(AIHW 2013b)

Myth: Private Hospitals don’t have emergency wards.

FACT: In 2011–12, 23 Australian private hospitals had dedicated emergency departments.

In 2012–13, 5.3% of all admissions (203,000 out of 3,843,000) to private hospitals required emergency care, that is, unplanned, non-elective clinical care required within 24 hours of admission.

Each year, private hospitals also provide more than 530,000 out-patient Accident and Emergency occasions of services.

(AIHW 2014:16, Table 2.10)

(ABS 2013)

Myth: Private hospitals don’t train future doctors and nurses.

FACT: We train the current and next generation of Australian doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

According to Health Workforce Australia (HWA), every year, private hospitals provide more than 500,000 days training to trainee health professionals each year.

(HWA 2013)

Myth: Private hospitals are exclusive to a selected few.

FACT: Care in private hospitals is more affordable than many people realise. In 2012–13, 2 in 5 (41.0%) of all Australian patients admitted to hospital were treated in private hospitals—3.84 million out of 9.37 million. These included patients with or without health insurance, public patients and veterans.

(AIHW 2014:14, Table 2.7)

In 2011–12, 1 in 4 (25.3%) of patients from Australia’s the most disadvantaged communities (the lowest socio-economic quintile of the Australian population) were treated in private hospitals. More than half (51.2%) of the elective surgeries for patients from these communities are done by private hospitals.

(AIHW 2013a:126, 217, Tables 7.8, 10.5. This data was not published in 2012–13.)

Myth: Elective surgery is the same as cosmetic surgery. Private hospitals only do ‘lumps and bumps’ and obstetrics.

FACT: Elective surgery isn’t only cosmetic surgery. In fact, it is often complex and life-saving procedures such as cardiac surgery and hip and knee replacements that get our patients up and enjoying life again quickly.

In 2012–13, private hospitals and day surgeries treated 2 in 3 (1,363,566 out of total 2,042,650) elective surgery admissions.

(AIHW 2014:205, Table 9.3)

Myth: Private hospitals are funded by private health insurance.

FACT: Private hospitals are owned and operated by not-for-profit religious and charitable institutions or commercial enterprises. The services we provide to patients are partially or fully subsidised from sources including private health insurance funds, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, third party insurers and patients themselves.

Public hospitals actually receive a significant amount from insurance funds. In 2013, public hospitals received more than $892 million in benefits from health insurance funds. New South Wales received almost 50% of these benefit payments.

(PHIAC 2014)

Myth: Private hospitals only think about profits and not about patients.

FACT: Australia’s private hospitals are diverse—some are operated by charities, some on a not-for-profit basis and others as commercial entities. But regardless of our structure, our patients are our absolute priority.

Myth: Private hospitals don’t have to meet the same safety and quality standards.

FACT: Private hospitals have to meet more safety and quality standards and protocols than public hospitals. We have a strong reason to maintain a high standard of safety and quality of services and we are proud of the standard of services we provide.

From January 2013, all public and private hospitals were required to be accredited against a nationally consistent and uniform set of measures known as National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS Standards) developed by Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC).

Furthermore, 294 private hospitals are participating in the Australian Government’s MyHospitals website which provides information about individual hospital performances, including hospital services, patient admissions, waiting times for elective surgery and emergency department care, measures of safety and quality, cancer services and hospital accreditation.

(MyHospitals 2014)


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2013. Australian Private Hospitals 2011–12. Cat no 4390.0. ABS: Canberra.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2013a. Australian Hospital Statistics 2011–12. Health services series 50. Cat. no. HSE 134. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2013b, Australian Hospital Statistics 2011–12. Supplementary tables—Diagnosis related groups (Part 2): admitted patient care. Available from www.aihw.gov.au.

AIHW 2014, Australian Hospital Statistics 2012–13. Health services series. Cat. no. HSE 145. Canberra: AIHW.

HWA (Health Workforce Australia) 2013. Database last accessed on 26 March 2013. Available from http://data.hwa.gov.au.

MyHospitals 2013. Available online at http://www.myhospitals.gov.au/private-hospitals, last viewed 2 February 2014)

PHIAC (Private Health Insurance Administration Council) 2014. Available online at http://phiac.gov.au/industry/industry-statistics/statistical-trends/, last viewed on 30 April 2014.

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