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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Work in the Division in Syria

Medical Work in the Division in Syria

The period spent in Syria was a quiet one for the medical services. There were no battle casualties and there was little sickness. The divisional medical units had the chance to rehabilitate themselves after the disastrous events in Libya. Built up by reinforcements, they quickly settled down under new commanding officers. The professional aspect of their work was developed considerably and two small hospital units were set up by the field ambulances.

At a stage before the CCS was functioning at Zahle and 2 General Hospital at Nazareth, the ambulances held medical cases in hospital, and at Aleppo a considerable amount of hospital work was carried out. Not only was hospital nursing and treatment undertaken by the ambulances, but they also did bacteriological work with regard to malaria. At Baalbek 4 Field Ambulance ran a small hospital of 80–100 beds where cases were held pending the arrival of the CCS, and malaria diagnostic work was also undertaken.

Advantage was taken of the quiet period to enable two junior officers in the Division to exchange duties every fortnight with officers attached to 2 General Hospital at Nazareth and so gain clinical experience.

The dearth of medical practitioners in Syria, especially in the country districts, resulted in the services of New Zealand medical officers being freely sought by the civil population. This led to the page 326 development of quite a large out-patient practice in several areas, particularly on the Turkish frontier and at Aleppo. Long queues of patients of both sexes and all ages were to be seen outside the medical quarters patiently waiting their turn for treatment for all sorts of ailments. Visits were also paid on occasions to the homes of the people and a small obstetrical practice developed. The universality of medicine had demonstrated itself.

In Aleppo the small civil hospital which the New Zealand field ambulances had inherited from the Australians was called upon to do civil out-patient work and also admitted some civilians to the hospital wards. Serious army cases often had to be held here, as it was 200 miles back to the nearest hospital. Some special cases, however, were sent back by air.

It had been decided to rely more on the protection of the Geneva Convention, and additional large Red Cross flags of excellent material and workmanship were made in Aleppo.

At Zahle the newly constituted CCS proved a very valuable unit to the Division and was able to provide an out-patient consultative service for the ambulances. Medical and surgical consultations were provided by the unit personnel, and the eye and ear, nose, and throat specialist from 2 General Hospital at Nazareth was available weekly in addition. Clinical teaching rounds were carried out weekly. The CCS also arranged out-patient clinics for the injection of varicose veins and haemorrhoids. At Zahle bacteriological investigations were carried out and several cases of relapsing fever were definitely diagnosed there. Further laboratory investigations, including Kahn and Wasserman reactions, were carried out by an Australian laboratory at Beirut.