Public Health Costs for Northern Territory and South Australian Cardiac Surgery Patients

John H. Farnsworth, Bronwyn M. Krieg, Jayme S. Bennetts, Robert A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The cost of performing cardiac surgery in the public health system in Australia is unclear. This paper analyses the cost of cardiac surgery performed at Flinders Medical Centre (FMC), South Australia, comparing cost by procedure, rheumatic valvular heart disease status, Aboriginality and location. Methods: This study is a retrospective, population-based analysis of cardiac surgery data held in the Cardiac Surgery Registry cross-referenced to cost data provided by the FMC Department of Finance and Patient Travel, Accommodation and Transport Services at the Royal Darwin Hospital. Seven hundred ninety-five (795) patients who underwent cardiac surgery at FMC from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2016 were included. Results: Across all procedures, Northern Territory (NT) Aboriginal patients had a mean total cost of $78,506 which was $24,113 more than NT non-Aboriginal, $28,443 more than South Australian (SA) Aboriginal and $22,955 more than SA non-Aboriginal patients. The total cost of a patient undergoing a repeat sternotomy (reoperative procedure) was found to be significantly higher than a primary procedure ($85,797 versus $59,097). In patients undergoing valve surgery procedures, those identified with rheumatic heart disease had a higher mean total cost than those without (a difference of $25,094). Significantly, the rheumatic patient group showed a higher proportion of reoperative procedures (19% versus 5%). Conclusions: The cost of treating NT Aboriginal cardiac surgical patients remotely has a significant financial impact upon the health care delivery system, as does the impact of rheumatic heart disease. This study found that the cost for the NT Aboriginal patient group was substantially higher than the NT non-Aboriginal, SA Aboriginal and SA non-Aboriginal patient groups. The additional cost to family and dislocation of social structures is not able to be calculated, but would also clearly weigh heavily on both patient groups. These findings suggest that future health funding models should recognise Aboriginality, remoteness and rheumatic heart disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1727
Number of pages8
JournalHeart, Lung and Circulation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Health economics
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Rheumatic heart disease


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