THE women’s surgical ward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has won a reprieve from the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, who intervened to save the beds scheduled for closure in an $8 million round of cost-cutting at the Camperdown hospital before next week’s mini-budget.

Mr Della Bosca said he had received many letters "from the community including specialist clinicians, former patients and families, and they made a compelling case for the needs of women undergoing this type of treatment".

Under the planned closure, revealed by the Herald on October 17, women would have been nursed alongside men in general surgery wards after treatment for conditions such as miscarriages, uterine prolapses and cervical or ovarian cancer.

The minister said in a statement he had asked the chief executive of Sydney South West Area Health Service, Mike Wallace, to reconsider the planned closure and that hospital managers and doctors had now agreed to retain the ward to provide "the privacy, respect and dignity women deserve during their treatment and recovery".

But allmastectomy patients would be nursed on the mixed-sex plastic surgery ward, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

The ward accommodates women having reconstructive surgery – usually weeks or months after breast cancer surgery – but until now, most women having initial breast cancer operations had been admitted to the women’s ward.

The gynaecology ward’s reprieve was brokered at a meeting on Monday of four senior specialists, Mr Wallace and the hospital’s executive director, Di Gill.

In an email to brief doctors on the meeting, the hospital’s head of gynaecology, Michael Cooper, said there was "clear pressure on the hospital to continue to drive efficiency and trim costs".

But the managers had agreed that women should continue to be nursed on ward 7East2, with its high proportion of private rooms.

The ward would be relocated temporarily for renovations but would move back early next year, though "with admittedly fewer beds".

The spokeswoman yesterday could not confirm the proposed number of beds.

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