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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Work of the Main Dressing Stations

The Work of the Main Dressing Stations

The layout of the MDS provided for a special bypass road leading in from the main road, running alongside the reception, resuscitation, and walking wounded tents.1 The operating tents of the surgical team and the unit lay behind the resuscitation tent and the holding wards behind the reception tent, the hospital cookhouse being centrally sited near the wards.

EPIP tents were used for operating theatres and wards, and dispersal was limited to a maximum of 40 yards. The EPIP tents page 395 were readily fly, light, and sand proofed. There were on an average twenty cases held for nursing.

The cases passed rapidly through the reception tent, where clerks entered all essential details and a medical officer sorted out the cases according to whether resuscitation and urgent operation was required, or for evacuation to the medical centre. The walking wounded were transferred to a larger holding tent where dressings could be adjusted, and from where they could be rapidly loaded into ambulance cars or trucks.

In the meantime a constant supply of hot drinks and light meals was provided, the special Red Cross hospital comforts being very valuable. Every member of the unit was trained for his special task and worked at high pressure to keep the cases moving on and so avoid congestion.

The serious cases referred to the resuscitation tent were carefully examined and sorted into those, including abdominals, for operation by the attached surgical teams, and those to be dealt with by the unit's own surgical teams. Large quantities of blood, but also of serum and plasma and glucose salines, were given by a specially trained team, including dental mechanics, until 2 NZ FTU was attached. A very efficient forward operating centre was then complete and functioned smoothly.

By this time all the surgical teams were well trained and worked speedily and we had two very experienced abdominal surgeons. The abdominal cases were held and nursed before evacuation, and nursing orderlies from the CCS were available for this purpose.

The pre-Alamein experience had rendered the ambulances, both the ADS and the MDS, highly efficient and this was shown by their ability to handle the exceptionally large numbers during the Alamein battles.

1 See diagram on p. 382