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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Maadi Camp Hospital

Maadi Camp Hospital

The camp hospital dealt with the minor infectious diseases and minor cases in the camps not likely to be in hospital for many days, as well as the cases of venereal disease. It eased the load of the general hospitals considerably as well as simplifying the isolation of infectious cases. Measles, mumps, influenza, and sandfly fever patients were admitted, and in May a special emergency hospital and convalescent area was set up to deal with the influenza cases among the 5th Reinforcements.

The number of venereal disease patients admitted to Maadi Camp Hospital gave rise to some concern, especially when in June and July the total number of cases in 2 NZEF rose to 190, or seven cases for every thousand troops each month. The incidence had been almost as high the previous year when all the troops were in the Cairo area, but the attention drawn to the matter by Captain Platts, and the action taken by the 2 NZEF authorities, resulted in this high incidence not being reached again until after the conclusion of hostilities in Italy. A count was made of the New Zealand soldiers using the PA centre in the legalised brothel area in Cairo for a week in July and was found to be 2164. This did not include those who used other places and means of prophylaxis, and those who took no precautions at all. It was pointed out that it was necessary to correct the unwitting but dangerous sentiments conveyed by non-medical lecturers which tended to recommend the use of legalised brothels. Their existence presupposed freedom from infection, but most of the prostitutes had venereal disease. Captain Platts, after witnessing the regular examination of prostitutes, considered that every prostitute probably suffered from chronic gonorrhoea, and he found that every third prostitute had a syphilis treatment card.

The problem was one common to all forces in Egypt, and the page 230 closing of the brothel area to troops the following year resulted in a reduction in the incidence of venereal disease.

In July and August 1941 a follow-up system was organised to ensure that all patients completed their surveillance at field ambulances after their discharge from Maadi Camp Hospital, especially as regards syphilis patients who now numbered 51, and that case records were sent to the DGMS Army Headquarters for any troops who returned to New Zealand while still under treatment. One medical officer in each field ambulance was given special training in the treatment of venereal disease so as to enable the follow-up to be satisfactorily carried out. By October 1941 the incidence in venereal disease in 2 NZEF had dropped below three per thousand troops per month, and did not rise above this figure during the rest of the time 2 NZEF was in Egypt.

A blood bank was formed at the Camp Hospital in July 1941, and thereafter blood was drawn off by arrangement with Lieutenant-Colonel S. R. Buttle, in charge of the blood transfusion service at 15 General Hospital, to supply the needs of the forces in the Western Desert.