“A Be-what?!?” – Use of the term ‘Barouche’ in South Australian Hospitals

Did you know that South Australia is one of only a few places in the world to use the name ‘Barouche’ to refer to a trolley used for patient transfer. Indeed, there are many anecdotal stories of overseas and interstate trained healthcare professionals coming to work in South Australia and being very confused when a barouche is mentioned.

So where did the name barouche come from.

In the 19th Century a barouche referred to a large open four wheeled carriage that was drawn by two horses. They were often luxuriously appointed and intended for display and leisure activities.

Horse drawn carriage, known as a barouche.
Barouche on the place de l’√Čtoile (Paris, ca. 1885-1890) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Josep_Maria_Ca%C3%B1ellas_(JMC_302).png#metadata

In the early 20th Century, with cars replacing horse-drawn carriages, the original meaning for the name fell out of common usage. References to a barouche as a patient trolley started appearing around this time, one of the earliest mentions in South Australia is in a newspaper article dating from 1912. It’s usage became increasingly common, and in 1933, the hospital barouche was described as a “two wheeled runabout”. Interestingly, the name barouche comes from the German word barutsche, itself ultimately derived from the latin word birotus meaning ‘two wheeled’.

patient surrounded by nurses laying on a barouche or patient trolley.
Nurse Ward and Nurse Salmon, a House Surgeon and a Porter surround a patient on a barouche. The patient has just finished having a plaster applied. CALHN Health Museum Collection, 4.1B.67

Barouche are still commonly used in South Australian hospitals today, but now have four wheels. They are commonly used for patient transport, as they are skinnier than a hospital bed, and usually have thinner mattresses.

Emergency patient on barouche.
TQEH Emergency Department Patient on Barouche, Ca 1980.
CALHN Health Museum Collection, AR#13242

The barouche has a number of localised names used around the world such as gurney, stretcher, or patient trolley. What do you know them as? Share below.

Written by Jonathan Hull, CALHN Health Museum

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