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The New Zealand Dental Services

Stores and Equipment

Stores and Equipment

Most supplies were through monthly indent on the Army Base Dental Store in Wellington. Through the excellent co-operation of Air Movements, it was possible at all times to keep these up to requirements.

Certain stores were available from the United States Medical Supplies, but too much reliance could not be put on this source as page 363 it was short in dental stocks. Any stocks bought from the Americans were issued on the lend-lease system, but since Wellington was also buying stocks under the same system and held them in fuller supply, there was little advantage to be gained except in emergency.

As many stores from Wellington were sent by air transport, certain modifications in the method of packing had to be made. In the first place, weight was a primary consideration and the wooden boxes in general use were unacceptable to the Air Force, which repacked the stores into cardboard cartons. This led to some damage from rough handling until instructions were issued that all fragile goods were to be suitably marked as such. Secondly, the reduced atmospheric pressure at high altitudes made it necessary to wire down all corks of bottles containing liquids. One package in the early days was ruined by bottles of chromic acid and absolute alcohol blowing their corks.

The same trouble was experienced in keeping certain stores and equipment as was seen in Fiji and with 3 Division. An American dental officer made a small ‘hot-box’ for his instruments and burs which proved very satisfactory. It was a simple box containing one or more electric light bulbs. By reason of the humidity, synthetic porcelain fillings were not fully satisfactory, Units of acrylic resin were of little use unless the monomer could be kept in a refrigerator to prevent it solidifying. As acrylic resin was only used by the New Zealand Dental Corps for isolated cases, this mattered little, but the Americans, who had adopted its use more fully, must have had considerable difficulty if away from their base.

Spirit lamps and primuses were used in surgeries and workrooms instead of bottled gas, which in February 1943, when the sections were equipped, was in short supply in New Zealand. It is interesting to note that while all reasonable demands for supplies were met by Wellington, the Dental Corps was not pampered and had to rely on initiative to meet exceptional circumstances. One dental officer sent the following request to Army Base Dental Store:

Matches are very scarce and a packet or two would be very useful if they could be included in the indent. Sufficient draught to keep the place cool plays havoc with the spirit lamp and a considerable number of matches are used.

The answer from Headquarters, Wellington, was ‘No. Improvise lamp shield.’

Later, when the supply of electricity was better, some electric sterilisers and water heaters were supplied. Other electrical equipment such as polishing lathes and fans followed shortly afterwards. Such things as electric lathes and fans had been considered as luxuries, but Major Cunningham on his return to New Zealand in page 364 May 1945 had a personal interview with Colonel Finn in which he was able to prove that they were definite aids to efficiency. This interview smoothed out many small difficulties in connection with stores administration in the Islands Group.

Up to this time, all unserviceable equipment had to be returned to New Zealand before it could be written off the charge of the Senior Dental Officer. Similarly, there were no local facilities for writing off missing equipment. Authority was now given for all equipment, other than glassware, which had become unserviceable through fair wear and tear, to be written off by a local Board of Survey consisting of two dental officers other than the accounting officer. It was suggested that this board meet every three months. Items of glassware broken in use were to be entered on Form 138 (an army form which was an application to write off stores) and not returned to Army Base Dental Store.

On account of the lack of air freight, supplies of workroom plaster, artificial stone and other items of a high weight-to-value ratio were procured locally under lend-lease. This countermanded an order of April 1945 that no further supplies were to be obtained from United States sources. Another item got from lend-lease sources was X-ray films. The films supplied from the Army Base Dental Store were unsuitable for the climate and the United States Medical Depots had slow X-ray films in a special tropical pack.