Flinders and Light Wards opened in 1894 as part of the Adelaide Hospital’s new East Wing. Originally Flinders Ward was a 36 bed, female medical ward treating patients with diseases like typhoid fever, heart disease, gastric ulcers and pneumonia. On the ground floor was Flinders and above it was Light Ward.
Wards at the Adelaide Hospital had names in typical English tradition. The names honoured well-known people at that time, including religious concepts. Flinders Ward was no exception. Named after Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, who was first Royal Navy explorer to chart and report on the coastal areas of South Australia, and the first to use the term ‘Australia’ in his book ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’ in 1814.
It was a long ward with low black beds along each wall. The ceiling was an unattractive olive green, with brown painted walls. There was gas lighting with a central fire place in the middle of the room.
Over the years the function of the ward changed; in the early 1900s it was a mixed medical ward with both female and male patients. However, by 1935, the ward was predominately male, with upstairs Light Ward, becoming a female medical ward. Hospital overcrowding led to the addition of balconies, both upstairs and downstairs. Initially these were open to the elements and then enclosed later on. The ward verandahs held additional polio patients during the 1930s Poliomyelitis epidemic.
Kitchen and Pan Room
On the right side of the ward was the kitchen and next door was the pan and bottle room. The ward kitchen prepared special diets such as meals for diabetic patients. These were usually severed later than the regular 4.30 pm tea-time. The pan and bottle room were also used as storage and had a sink for washing up. One of the daily duties done in Flinders medical pan room, was the testing of urine.
Two isolation wards were located on the left side of Flinders ward, mainly used for tetanus patients. To keep these rooms as quiet as possible, green baize covered the door and became colloquially known as the ‘green rooms’.
At the age of 17 , I was admitted to Finders wards with typhoid fever … I was on the right side of the ward. At the bottom end was the kitchen section on the right and on the left side was the bottle and pan area. Evening meal was the same every day. A bowl of sago and slices of bread and butter. I have not eaten sago since May 1936Mr TR Furnival, 2004
As part of the RAH redevelopment project, Flinders and Light Wards were demolished in August 1970.
Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum