The AU$2.3 billion (€1.55 billion, USD$1.83 billion) new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) includes 800 beds and will care for an estimated 85,000 inpatients and 400,000 outpatients each year.

The RAH, in the South Australian capital Adelaide, is set to be the epicentre of the state’s health system and is reportedly the third most expensive building in the world.

The hospital features all single patient rooms, each with its own personal en suite and day bed to allow for a loved one to stay overnight. It has been treating some patients for the past few weeks but was officially launched with the opening of its Emergency Department on 5 September.

This has coincided with the movement of hundreds of patients from the old hospital about 2km further up North Terrace. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says this represents an exciting time for the health professionals moving to the new hospital.

“We are doing more than opening the world’s finest and most advanced hospital,” he says. “We’re inaugurating an institution that will serve generations of families and underpin the wellbeing and progress of our state
Designed by Silver Thomas Hanley in joint venture with Design Inc and constructed by Hansen Yuncken Leighton Contractors as part of a PPP model, it has been touted as the most advanced hospital in the modern world.

Silver Thomas Hanley led the design for the new 180,000sq m hospital, 230,000sq m including car parking, following a brief based on a model of care aimed to rejuvenate and disrupt the way health services are delivered in South Australia.

“The Royal Adelaide is intended to be the jewel in the crown of that restructured statewide service,” Silver Thomas Hanley Managing Director Ernest Girardi says. “We re-engineered the whole concept of how a hospital works right down to the bedrooms.

Built in the northwestern corner of the Adelaide CBD overlooking the River Torrens and parklands, the hospital is part of the $3.6 billion Adelaide BioMed City. The landscaped gardens and courtyards are located within two minutes of all 800 patient rooms, which also feature views of the surrounding parklands and windows that open.

Girardi said the design of the rooms were a good example of how the hospital’s concept had been re-engineered to provide a patient-focused facility. “What we did is we provided visibility both ways – from the corridor so the clinicians can look in without any obstruction and the patient can look out. It is a solution that is nothing like any other hospital bedroom in this country or the world for that matter.”

The hospital’s long and narrow shape has allowed it to be laid out vertically rather than laterally, in a series of vertical clinical villages, which are accessed by three strategically located banks of lifts across the spine of the building.

“For instance, all the cancer services are not located on the one floor – you might not think that’s a good idea – we’ve located them on top of each other at the eastern end of the building,” Girardi says.

Similarly, at the western end of the hospital, the trauma modalities include the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, and operating theatres all stacked below the helipad and connected by a series of “hot lifts”.

Can respond to major disasters

The hospital is also equipped to respond to major disasters and will play a significant role in the state’s post-disaster management strategies. The Emergency Department at the new hospital will have capacity to respond to chemical spills, natural disasters, and infectious outbreaks.

The hospital has also been built to withstand an earthquake, and has an independent water and electricity supply allowing it to operate in “island mode” for at least 48 hours if these public utilities fail. “This is a world-class facility and I think we will start seeing a lot of people coming to Adelaide specifically to see what we’ve done there,” Girard says.