New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
The Convalescent Depot was moved on 30 April from the drab, unsatisfactory site at Sidi Bishr, with its sand and wind, to the Palestinian coast at Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, taking over from the Australians a large hutted camp. The area was a very healthy one, high up behind cliffs above the long, sandy beaches of the warm Mediterranean. Although a long way from the Division and from other hospitals, it was a very desirable site for the purpose and was close to the main railway line. The Division had also arranged for a rest camp on the coast just south of Beirut, where sea bathing was very attractive.
There was a larger area and more buildings at Kfar Vitkin than were required for the Convalescent Depot so the Advanced Base was also placed there. This had the advantage of saving transport and of simplicity in transferring fit patients to the Base. On the other hand, the close contact between convalescent patients and fit men was in some ways undesirable.
The ample sports facilities, the close proximity of the beach, the summer weather, and the opportunity of swimming in the Mediterranean led to more time being spent outdoors by the patients, and encouraged the convalescents to carry out unconsciously the steps necessary to make themselves fit.
The majority of the cases sent to the depot from the hospitals made very good progress. The Consultant Surgeon reported, however, that cases with plaster splints did badly in the sand and should not be sent to the depot till the surgeon at the hospital had finalised treatment and applied the last plaster. Fracture cases kept for long periods in plaster developed muscular wasting and were slow to rehabilitate. Cases were also being sent for physiotherapeutic treatment when the depot was suitable only for ordinary massage and remedial exercises.
Our Convalescent Depot functioned as both a convalescent camp and rehabilitation centre. At Kfar Vitkin a more strenuous military training course was started for men almost ready to be discharged; it proved of great value and resulted in men being received by Reception Depot, Maadi Camp, in a much fitter condition for return to their units than formerly.