New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Shortage of Specialists
Shortage of Specialists
Reorganisation presented many difficulties, especially, as was inevitable, when more of the most capable and experienced surgeons and physicians were promoted to administrative positions. This was found to be a recurring feature in later years. At this stage there was a pressing shortage of physicians. No. 3 General Hospital had only one general physician on its staff, after a rearrangement of physicians following a conference called by DDMS 2 NZEF on 28 August. For the Division the ADMS was asking for more senior officers instead of the very junior type he had been receiving, although many of the latter eventually proved most successful regimental and field ambulance medical officers.
There arose in the medical services of the 2 NZEF a feeling that an insufficient number of senior and specialist physicians was being sent overseas. DDMS 2 NZEF had no doubt that a similar position would arise very shortly in regard to trained surgeons, and suggested to DGMS Army Headquarters that representations on the matter be made to the ONS Medical Committee. He thought that if the New Zealand branches of the Australasian Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians were to review the number of trained specialists in 2 NZEF and eliminate those who were necessarily engaged in administrative capacities, they would not be satisfied that an adequate proportion of skilled clinicians had been supplied. The page 238 position as regards specialists in eye, ear, nose, and throat, radiologists, and bacteriologists would also be serious if any one of these became a casualty.
An effort was made in September to obtain medical officers from England, and two surgeons were obtained.
The senior members of the hospital staffs were promoted to the rank of major at this time, thus removing some of the anomalies inherent in the rigid establishments. In the New Zealand Medical Corps there was no provision for specialist appointments dependent on the qualifications of the officer such as existed in the RAMC, the only appointments being those defined in the hospital establishments, such as that of divisional officer, and the provision for a limited number with the rank of major in the unit.
In the RAMC, on the other hand, officers were given the rank of major when they were qualified as specialists in different branches of the profession by the possession of senior academic qualifications such as the FRCS. This resulted in many young officers with recent qualification and short experience holding the rank of major, whereas in the New Zealand Medical Corps, in which a considerable number of older men volunteered early for service, there were several leading practitioners of the highest qualifications and with long experience who held the rank of captain; the majority of them later became divisional or commanding officers of hospitals. In course of time, with the recruiting mainly of the younger men, the position rectified itself, though some anomalies still remained, such as the inability of any of the specialists to be ranked higher than major if they could not function as divisional officers.
Clinical meetings were held regularly in our general hospitals and addresses were given both by visiting medical officers and members of our own corps. This had an educative and stimulating effect, undoubtedly improving the quality of our professional work.