New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
With the transfer of three base hospitals and the Convalescent Depot to Italy in addition to the field medical units and casualty clearing station, the medical layout of 2 NZEF was similar to that adopted in Egypt and North Africa. The New Zealand units formed a complete chain, thus enabling most of the sick and wounded New Zealand soldiers to receive continuous treatment within their own units. As a matter of fact the percentage of New Zealand patients admitted to other than New Zealand hospitals during the campaign in Italy was much less than had been the case in some of the Western Desert operations. When lines of evacuation were long, as from the operations south of Florence and from the Trieste area, use was made of air transport from the Casualty Clearing Station to the nearest New Zealand base hospital. There were, however, small numbers of New Zealanders in British hospitals at Rome from time to time when their journey from northern to southern Italy was broken at that city. Many New Zealand patients were also admitted to British medical units during transit from the Division to the base hospitals, especially during the battle for Florence, and to a lesser extent at the Sangro. Moreover, the New Zealand medical services were glad to avail themselves of the special facilities offered in British and American hospitals for the treatment of head and faciomaxillary cases, a few chest cases, and a few mental patients.page 571
The only medical units in Egypt not transferred to Italy were the rest homes, which had very small staffs and served a useful purpose in Egypt, particularly 2 Rest Home for other ranks at Alexandria. In Italy an arrangement was made for certain convalescent officers discharged from 3 General Hospital to stay at the New Zealand Forces Club, Bari, without payment of fees during their convalescence. Later, use was made of the British Red Cross rest home for sisters, nurses, and officers established in February 1944 at Fasano, near Brindisi. Similar arrangements to utilise British Red Cross homes at Sorrento and Loreto were made by 2 General Hospital and 1 General Hospital at their locations of Caserta and Senigallia respectively.
Leave camps were organised in several areas and were freely utilised. Some were organised by divisional units, some by hospitals, and some by the YMCA. No. 3 General Hospital established one at Putignano, on the coast south of Bari; 2 General Hospital established one on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples and also rented some houses on the Sorrento peninsula at Positano. These camps did much to improve the health and preserve the morale of the troops.
Throughout the period in Italy 3 General Hospital remained the main base hospital, having the best accommodation and being capable of expansion up to 1200 beds. It was from this hospital that all evacuations of invalids from Italy to New Zealand were made.