Women's Hospital, Crown Street

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The Women’s Hospital was founded in 1893 in a four-roomed house in Hay Street and moved to its present site in 1897.

On 13 August 1895, the first duly constituted Board of the Women’s Hospital adopted as its working plan, a simple set of objectives which today remain substantially unchanged, the fourth of these being ‘Training School where obstetrical nursing in all its branches may be taught and certificates of efficiency granted’. This objective was enlarged to include the training of medical students as part of their medical course and practitioners by means of special postgraduate courses.

Since 1900 ‘Crown Street’ has been a teaching hospital in obstetrics for medical undergraduates of the University of Sydney. In 1921, when there were 846 births at the Hospital, the Annual Report recorded:


Fifth year Medical Students continue to avail themselves of practical instruction in midwifery, the term prescribed by the University being three weeks. Students, recognising the value of this arrangement, often apply for a second term, but, unfortunately, until additional patients can be accommodated, this cannot always be arranged and the University has now requested the Hospital to still further increase the number of students to be taken next year. This matter vitally affects every citizen who has occasion to call in the services of an Obstetrician, and he will recognise how essential it is in the interests of young Australia and the community generally, for students and Medical Officer to have sound practical experience in this branch of Medicine.

In 1982 ‘Crown Street’ was the major teaching unit in Obstetrics, teaching some eighty students annually; 4,038 babies were born at the hospital. It is noteworthy that the 1,403 public births provided the greatest opportunity for tuition on deliveries available in New South Wales.

In 1981 there were 3,590 public inpatients as well as 13,333 public outpatients — significant statistics in the teaching programme of this internationally recognized maternity hospital. Amongst other achievements ‘Crown Street’ was the first hospital outside the United States to have a foetal cardiac monitor and pioneered its use in Australia; the first maternity hospital to have local anaesthesia for caesarian sections; the first hospital to have a fertility clinic in Australia and New Zealand; the first to handle the problems of ‘childbirth fever’.

Since 1965 an Associate Professor has been based at the hospital. Clinical Lecturers in Obstetrics and Gynaecology are recommended for appointment by the Board of Medical Studies. To date over 3,500 students have been taught at ‘Crown Street’.

The recent decision by the State Government to close this Hospital with its standing of ninety years will be a loss to the women of N.S.W. and an irreplaceable loss to the teaching of Obstetrics for years to come.

Source: L. Valkenburg, "The Women's Hospital, Crown Street" in Young J, Sefton A and Webb N, Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine. Sydney University Press, Sydney