Fresh Air and Sunshine

There is nothing quite like the simple joys of getting some fresh air and sunshine. I think many of us can appreciate the benefits that spending time outdoors has on how we feel. These benefits have long been recognised in the health setting too.

Patients from Theatre Ward taken outside on a sunny day. From an album belonging to P. Newland. Ca 1925-1928

The CALHN Health Museum holds many photographs dating from the early to mid 20th century of patients enjoying some fresh air and sunshine outside. The old site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, contained many gardens, verandahs and balconies for use by patients.

The photograph is titled: ‘Out for an Airing’. It shows back views of the Operating Theatre to the left and the western end of the 1856 hospital with Albert Ward on the right. A variety of patients and visitors are outside: some in beds, wheelchairs, on crutches or sitting. 1900

Open-air treatment was the use of fresh air and sunshine to aid in a patients recovery. It was recognised to be particularly beneficial to those with infectious respiratory diseases. Many of the wards incorporated outdoor areas of wards on balconies and undercover annexes.

Frome Ward treated patients suffering from “open” or infectious pulmonary tuberculosis. When it opened on 16 September 1932 it filled with patients almost immediately. The photograph shows patients on the verandah receiving ‘fresh air’ treatment. When it rained nurses placed a mackintosh over the end of the bed. Ca 1950

The relative remoteness and wide separation between ward buildings at the Metropolitan Infectious Diseases Hospital (Later Northfield Infectious Diseases Hospital and now Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre) meant that it was ideally suited to “getting some air”.

From an album of photographs belonging to Kathleen (Kate) Brown. Shows patients under the verandahs of Ward B3 at Northfield. August 1948.

As well as the therapeutic benefits, for the patients of the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the early and mid 20th century there was also perhaps more practical reason’s for getting patients outside. Many of the wards were overcrowded and during the hot summer months they got stiflingly hot. Indeed it wasn’t until January 1940 that the first wards of the hospital received air-conditioning. These wards, Verco and Frome, were the first to receive air-conditioning as they were most affected by the heat. An article from the year proceeding the installation stated that:

“So fierce was the heat in certain wards at the Adelaide Hospital during the week that patients, many of whom were in a precarious state of health, were reduced to exhaustion point.”

Heat Stroke in Hospital (1939, January 14). The Mail,

Incorporating the benefits of the outdoors continues at the new RAH building which has a number of green spaces and courtyards that can be used by clients. Each room was designed to be within two minutes of one of these spaces.

Written by Jonathan Hull, CALHN Health Museum