Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

2. Undesirability of 600-Bed General Hospitals as L of C Units

2. Undesirability of 600-Bed General Hospitals as L of C Units

In the opinion of senior officers in the New Zealand force, the placing of the highly organised and elaborately equipped base hospitals as L of C units 200 miles from Athens was undesirable. The New Zealand General Hospital was adequately staffed, and very well equipped, as a stationary base hospital, with a full quota of sisters and a special bacteriological laboratory. The only location where this hospital could service the New Zealand force as a base hospital was in the region of Athens, where it would have been handy for the evacuation of cases by hospital ship.

It is likely that the decision to use the hospitals as L of C units was influenced by the difficulty of evacuation by a single-track and page 144 very vulnerable railway, and by the possible inability of the two CCSs to cope with the work in the forward areas.

The authorities were influenced, no doubt, in their decision to place the two 600-bed hospitals in 81 Base Sub-Area, by the fact that there were no other hospitals available, the smaller units of the old 200-bed type being no longer considered of value in the Army. There were also only two CCSs, so that no unit of that type was available on the L of C over and above what was required to carry out the urgent surgery. The 26th General Hospital was well established in Athens, and 2/5 Australian Hospital was to arrive later and would be available to supplement 26 General Hospital at the base.

It was therefore decided that 1 NZ General Hospital and 2/6 Australian General Hospital should be used as L of C hospitals, and, however unfortunate the decision may have been, especially for the New Zealand unit, perhaps it was inevitable. There was no CCS in 2 NZEF at the time available for use as a staging unit on the lines of communication.

It must be realised that the DDMS BTG had been in Greece only a short time and that the only advice available to him was that of an advance body, including a physician but no surgeon. As to the 2 NZEF, the ADMS NZ Division had no control over 1 NZ General Hospital, and the DMS 2 NZEF did not arrive in Greece until some time after the question of the disposition of the hospital had been settled. The siting of 1 NZ General Hospital in 81 Base Sub-Area made it impossible for 2 NZEF to handle its own casualties at the base, and relegated the hospital itself to the role of an L of C unit, its main function being the staging of cases not able to be sent direct from the CCS to Athens, and the retention of minor cases able to be discharged back to the Division. Only in case of the interruption of communication by possible bombing or sabotage of the railway would the hospital have functioned as a base hospital, and then its own supply and communications would have been difficult. Realisation of this situation caused a great deal of discontent among members of the unit, to whom were not explained the reasons which determined the decision of the Higher Command.

The surgical divisional officer of 1 NZ General Hospital gave as his opinion, following the Greek campaign, that the 2 NZEF should have as medical units under such circumstances: (1) Field ambulances as then constituted; (2) a CCS, with extra teams from base hospitals, or with the Mobile Surgical Unit as a light section; and (3) a base hospital where medical boarding and reclassification could be carried out.

He further recommended that all surgical units situated away from the base should be small units, as mobile as possible, and should not page 145 be called upon to deal with large numbers of minor cases. Adequate transport should be provided and, if possible, units should be self-contained, either individually or in groups, as regards transport.

He suggested that the minor cases on the lines of communication should be dealt with by a much less elaborate medical unit, and that an advanced base camp was desirable where cases could be held following discharge. (At one time patients who would have very soon been fit for return to their combatant units were discharged from 1 General Hospital, Pharsala, to Base Camp, Athens.)