South Australia’s first hospital operated from a tent and subsequently a hut, located near North Terrace and the parklands opposite. From this simple beginning, South Australians now enjoy an extensive system of public and private hospitals.

Researching hospital records

When researching hospital records, it is important that researchers first identify the hospital to which they, or the person they are researching, was admitted. State Records holds many archival records created by public hospitals.  Records of private hospitals may be found in the State Library of South Australia.

State Records holds patient admission registers for a range of hospitals including the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), the Port Adelaide Casualty Hospital, the Port Augusta Hospital, the Blyth District Hospital, the Hindmarsh Hospital, Estcourt House, the Northfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Alfreda Rehabilitation Centre, the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, the Queen Victoria Hospital and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH)

As the State’s major public hospital, the records of the RAH form the largest hospitals component of the collection. The RAH evolved from the Colonial Infirmary established in 1837 and was known as Adelaide Hospital from 1841 until 1939, when it was renamed the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

By 1850 the need for a much larger hospital had been foreseen and a large site at the eastern end of North Terrace was chosen.

Over the years there have been a number of major units, situated away from North Terrace, which have been under the control of the Board of Management. In 1932 the Northfield Infectious Diseases Hospital was opened and the Infectious Diseases Block of the Adelaide Hospital closed. The Northfield Consumptive Home took over the role of the Consumptive Home of the Hospital.

State Records holds admission registers for the RAH dating from 1841 to 1981. These registers have been partially indexed and are available online.

Which records might be relevant?

Hospital admission records can be a useful source of information for researchers as they record the admission of a person into a hospital, and summary details of some or all of the following; illness or disease, religion, marital status, occupation, age and arrival details in South Australia.

Other registers including x-ray, birth, casualty, in-patient, radiotherapy, discharge, operating theatres, deaths in hospitals, disease classification and of operations.  These registers can also be a useful way to identify if a person was in a hospital and for what reason.  Information within the registers varies, however they will usually contain number, date, patient name, ward, surgeon, unit record (UR) number and details relevant to the medical procedure(s) undertaken or event(s) being recorded.

Patient files are held by hospitals rather than State Records and can contain the following; detailed records of observations, drugs dispensed, surgical and medical procedures performed.

Other hospital records which may be useful include surgeon record books and case books, consulting room record books, anaesthetic books, visitor’s books, patient property books and post mortem books.

Access to hospital records

Hospital records are generally subject to longer access restrictions than other public records, due to the sensitive nature of the information they contain.  State Records staff can advise researchers on how to gain approval to access restricted hospital records from the agency responsible.


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