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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter XXVI. — Tuberculosis Nursing

page 122

Chapter XXVI.
Tuberculosis Nursing.

In common with most other countries, New Zealand has had to consider provision for the unfortunate sufferers from phthisis. The first sanatorium established was at Otaki, where Dr. Mason, Chief Health Officer, had erected shelters for men and women. There was also a small cottage hospital under the Wellington Hospital Board, with Miss Sealy as Matron.

The provision here soon proved inadequate and the Government authorised Dr. Mason to purchase a site near Cambridge, with an old residence away on the hills, seven miles of a steep ascent. Here shelters were added and the institution was placed under Dr. Roberts, a medical practitioner in the little town of Cambridge. Miss Bridgman, an Auckland Hospital nurse, was the first matron, but on her marriage, shortly after I took up office, Miss Alice Rochfort was appointed. At that time, the Health Department being separate from the Hospital Department, I had nothing to do with the sanatorium, but when visiting Cambridge I used to take the opportunity of going up to the sanatorium to spend a night with Miss Rochfort, a woman whom I liked and respected. Poor Miss Rochfort, her story is a sad one. She was a most enthusiastic nurse and very keen to study and improve her knowledge of her profession. She was for some years at Te Waikato Sanatorium where she was much beloved. Later she was attached to the North Canterbury Clinic for Tuberculosis, page 123 and from there went to see what she could learn in America. Here she fell a victim to the dread disease herself and rapidly grew very ill and died, away from her people and friends.

When the Health Department and the Hospitals Department were merged under Dr. Valintine, it became one of my duties to visit the sanatorium. There were several changes of matron and of medical superintendent, who became full time officers and resided at the sanatorium. Later, after the war, partly as a measure of economy, this sanatorium was closed. It was expensive and difficult to administer owing to its situation, and also the position often smothered in thick mist was not considered very suitable for consumptives.

The Pukeroa Sanatorium was then established near Waipukurau, as I mention elsewhere.

The policy of Dr. Valintine was that the Hospital Boards should make provision for these cases as for other cases of illness, and by degrees sanatoria were established by several of the larger boards and shelters attached to the hospitals by others. The Cashmere Hills Sanatorium, under the North Canterbury Board, is the largest of these and is a well planned institution, on the hills above Christ-church.

The Dunedin Hospital Board has a sanatorium at Pleasant Valley some 40 miles from Dunedin, and one for the more advanced cases near the town.

Some of the Boards of the South Island combined, and have a fine place in Central Otago. This commenced in a very small way, started by a doctor who erected a few shelters at Waipiata, a climate regarded as especially suitable for the treatment of this disease. I visited the place at this time but did not find conditions at all suitable.

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Later on, when the boards had taken it over I was there again and saw the beginning of what is now a splendid institution.

The nursing at these sanatoria is carried on by matron and staff nurses fully qualified and girls who are not trained in general nursing but who, after some years, pass an examination and obtain certificates as tuberculosis nurses. They have lectures from the doctors and, of course, splendid practical experience. Trained nurses sometimes go to these hospitals to gain the knowledge they cannot get in general hospitals now that few cases of the kind are treated therein.

At one time, the sanatoria were affiliated with the training schools and three months allowed to count in the general training, but this has been discontinued.