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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter VIII. — Reorganisation of Departments

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Chapter VIII.
Reorganisation of Departments.

Not very long after the division of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Department another change impended; owing to financial stress. A Department of Health, the first, I believe, in the world, at all events the first in the British Empire, had been instituted by the Government some years before. There was a chief health officer, several medical officers of health, stationed in the chief towns, and sanitary inspectors attached to the different centres. Dr. Mason was the chief Health Officer. Under this officer, came the sanatoria for T.B. patients, and all general health matters, such as pure milk supply, sanitation of the towns, etc.

For economic reasons it was decided to amalgamate this department with that of Hospitals and Charitable Aids, and the question then was to which of the heads of these departments would the dual position be given. Dr. Mason, or Dr. Valintine who had been second in command of the Health Department.

I remember the anxiety with which I awaited the decision. I knew Dr. Valintine, and was working under him most happily, and was anxious to remain under him.

I was away in Auckland at the time, and used to hear from him constantly, and when he sent word that he had been selected, it was with joy that I received the news.

I think, for the years when I was Dr. Valintine's only assistant inspector, and we divided the work of inspecting, page 54 no relationship of chief and subordinate could have been happier. He consulted me about his plans, and we discussed matters together, and when away from the head office, were in constant communication by letter, so that the interest of our work never flagged. Later on, as the department grew, and more medical officers were appointed and shared the inspection of hospitals, naturally, the cooperation between myself and my chief became less intimate. My own special department, the training schools and the registration of nurses, with all the preliminary work remained my own, and also the charge of the State Maternity and St. Helens Hospitals.

Dr. Valintine was a man of great ideas, and developed the health work of the Dominion tremendously. He worked out schemes for hospital management and for the provision of funds, and from time to time got amendments of Acts of Parliament passed, or new Acts to facilitate their working, and to give power to the Government, which provided so much of the necessary funds, to control, or partly control expenditure.

His genial temperament endeared him to his staff, and they were always ready to stand by him. He had great influence over the hospital boards, and could sway a meeting to his opinion when it seemed hopeless. He was, in fact, a very forceful personality—naturally with such a personality there were times when political control irked him immensely, and I remember many times when he had encounters with the different ministers of health which not always meant victory to the highest authority! He used to come back from an encounter and tell us all about it with a school-boy glee. Afterwards, I used to remonstrate with him, and beg him to be more careful.

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Another personality we had in the department was Dr. Frengley, an Irishman whose sense of humour was a constant joy. One of the ugliest men I have ever seen, we all loved Dr. Frengley, and deeply regretted his early death. At one time Dr. Valintine was in very bad health, and Dr. Frengley really was in charge of the department; we always felt that things were safe in his charge, and that if we were in any difficulty or needed advice, we could go to him, and his help was ready.

Another personality was Dr. Makgill, a man of brilliant intellect and very delightful, though rather shy and retiring outside his own circle. He was a great friend of Dr. Valintine's, and helped him in every project. We always felt that Dr. Makgill was one on whom we could depend for excellent advice. He was stationed at Auckland, but frequently came to Wellington, and usually had a great deal to do with drafting new Bills. One of my last occupations with him before my retirement, was going over the provisions of a new Act for nurses' registration, under which a board was to act, and in which the registration of midwives was incorporated in a separate part. This was not passed until after my retirement.

He had a very keen sense of humour, and often amused us extremely by rather youthful jokes and pranks.