The new Royal Adelaide Hospital: futuristic and state-of-the-art

The new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), which opened in September 2017 in the city’s CBD, is arguably Australia’s most technologically-advanced hospital.

From its fleet of robots (aka, Automated Guided Vehicles) that carry around supplies, food and equipment to its pneumatic tube automated internal delivery system, the 800 bed, environmentally-friendly hospital is a harbinger of the future of healthcare.

“Amazingly, in the past 50 years, only a handful of hospitals the size and complexity of the new RAH have been built from scratch,” says the Hon John Hill, who was South Australia’s Health Minister between 2005 to 2013 when the decision to build a new RAH was made.

“The old RAH was significantly rebuilt mid last century and adaptively renewed over time. Of necessity, facilities were added in ad hoc fashion, located where the site allowed. With this new purpose- built hospital, optimal design decisions were able to be made that allow for 30% improved efficiency,” he says.

Vertical layout

In the new RAH, critical care areas have been “stacked” vertically for efficiency and to expedite what can potentially be life-saving time. On the western side, the Emergency Department is sited directly below floors housing pathology and blood transfusion, trauma and emergency theatres, the Intensive Care Unit and a helipad. Hot lifts connect these service areas. The ED features glass-enclosed, as opposed to curtained-off, cubicles.

Entry points and wayfinding

There are multiple entry points including the main entrance featuring a light-filled, two-storey glass atrium. Wayfinding touch screen kiosks at key locations provide maps and can print out directions. Their bent-knee design takes account of the wheelchair-bound. Additionally, the interior design employs different contemporary imagery and colours around lifts and adjoining public areas to provide points of reference; carried through vertically, each level is split into four or five distinct themes to aid visitors’ navigation.

 Patient-centred and ‘green’ design

Most importantly, this state-of-the-art hospital contains no wards; all rooms feature a single bed with an ensuite, plus a daybed for a loved one. The single rooms are larger than is usual (18 to 21 metres) so that services such as mobile x-ray units, and health professionals, for example physiotherapists, can diagnose/treat in situ. This brings multiple benefits: privacy is ensured,  potentially risky movement of patients is lessened and possibility of infection is minimised.

At the design stage, care was given to optimising natural light throughout. Notably, patients’ rooms have windows that can open 30cm, with most rooms having an outlook across the hospital’s extensive gardens. With 70 internal courtyards, terraces and green spaces, including an Indigenous bush medicine garden, in tandem with the cutting-edge technology, it’s the nurturing, healing environment that very much sets the RAH apart.

About the author: Judy Barouch

Ever since she created her own pretend magazines as a girl, freelance journalist Judy Barouch has been passionate about writing. With a career spanning many years, Judy now specialises in authoring articles on residential, commercial and workplace architecture and design. She regularly contributes to leading newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and their website sections including Domain and Executive Style. She also writes for national glossy magazines such as Australian House & Garden and Home Beautiful. And, as a self-confessed hypochondriac, she enjoys delving into health and wellness-related issues.