RAH Ward Changes in Pictures

Take a visual journey through the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s (RAH) ward changes since 1841! Discover below how the hospital wards have evolved over the years with fascinating pictures that showcase the history and transformation of its wards.

First Adelaide Hospital

When the Royal Adelaide Hospital opened its doors to patients in 1841, the first purpose-built hospital had a total of three wards (two for men and one for women), and held 30 patients. The beds were all lined up against the wall, leaving very little room for patient privacy.

First purpose-built Adelaide Hospital, located on the corner of North Terrace and Hackney Road

Second Adelaide Hospital

In 1855, the second purpose-built hospital opened; the first wing constructed was the West Wing. The West Wing was divided into eight wards, with four located on the ground floor and four on the first floor. Seven were designated for male patients, while one was solely for female patients. Each ward had eighteen beds, and one of the wards was for accident victims.

A typical ward layout consisted of one entrance door and two fireplaces. Sash windows were located on the side and end of each ward, allowing for cross-ventilation. The wards did not have toilets, but two were available at the entrance of the West Wing for use by all patients within the wing. A slop sink was located in the middle of the ward for washing-up purposes.

Flinders Ward, Ca 1890. In the 1890s, Flinders Ward was a ward for female patients. Dr. Reilly sits at the central table with Sister Hardy beside him. Nurse Deer is standing on the left, and Nurse Chenoweth is seated on the right. The walls were painted brown up to six feet, and the ceiling was painted an unattractive green. Photographer: Ernest Gall.
Adelaide Ward, Ca1890. Adeailade was a male surgical ward on the ground floor of the West Wing and was known as one of the ‘Floor Wards’.
Light Ward, 1900. Light Ward was a male medical ward on the top storey of the Second East Wing. Features include Sherringham valve ventilators clearly visible high on the walls, gas lights over each bed, a linoleum-covered floor and a central double-sided fireplace.
Wyatt Ward, Ca1920. A female medical ward on the top floor ‘landing’ of the West Wing.

Post War

As World War II began, the overcrowded conditions in the wards put a lot of pressure on the hospital. To address the issue, the McEwin Building opened in 1946, containing operating theatres and surgical wards.  However, the wards were still large open rooms with multiple patient beds.

Lomman Ward, 1946. Lomman Ward was a male surgical ward on the third floor of McEwin Building. Sister Thelma Stewart is serving dinners from the bain-marie.
Ritchie Ward, Ca1950. Ritchie ward was a female post-operative surgical ward on the second floor of McEwin Building.
Lundie Ward, Christmas, 1948. Lundie was a female surgical ward on the third floor of the McEwin Building. Sister Noble is standing in the centre of the ward, which is decorated for Christmas.

1969 Redevelopment

During the 1960s, the hospital underwent a significant redevelopment which involved the demolition of many of the nineteenth-century buildings. In their place, modern multi-storey buildings were constructed. The new ward layout in these buildings included one and two-bed rooms, four and six-bed rooms, with a maximum of eight-bed rooms. The photographs above show the nurse’s station either in the middle of the ward or at the end. Now, they were located away from the beds, usually in the corridor, centre of the ward.

East Wing, Ca 1975. An example of a six-bed ward in the East Wing.
Nurses’ Station, North Wing, Ca 1975. There were four bays of six beds each on one side of the corridor in the three North Wing wards (Q, R and S) and a nurses’ station was located between each pair of bays. On the other side of the corridor were single and two-bed rooms. The stations had viewing windows to each bay.
Ward S3, 2012. Registered Nurses Annette La Roche, Jolene Wright and Vicki Green, making a patient’s bed, Ward S3. Ward S3 was a orthopaedics ward, located in the North Wing
Acute Surgical Unit, North Wing, 2017. Photograph of a four-bed ward, in the Acute Surgical Unit, level 3, North Wing. Photograph taken after the hospital moved sites.

Third Royal Adelaide Hospital

In 2017, the Royal Adelaide Hospital relocated from North Terrace to Port Road (the third purpose-built hospital). The new facility has 700 state-of-the-art, single-person rooms, each equipped with high-tech beds and monitors, effectively replacing outdated multi-bed wards. These monitors also enable patients to order meals and access entertainment. Additionally, each room has a day bed to accommodate family or friends who wish to stay overnight with the patient.

Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum