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Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

XIV: Military Hospital, Prisoner-of-war Camp, Featherston

XIV: Military Hospital, Prisoner-of-war Camp, Featherston

For the Japanese prisoners of war confined to the Featherston camp there was established a fully equipped military general hospital for the diagnosis, treatment and retention of all major and minor medical and surgical cases, whether sick or battle casualties. It was a 40-bed hospital and replaced the camp hospital, where treatment page 290 was limited to short-term illnesses. Its equipment and staffing enabled all invalids from the camp to be admitted there, and ended the previous practice of admitting serious cases to the Wellington and Masterton hospitals and to the Anzac Hall, Featherston. The 40-bed hospital was ample for the 800 prisoners held. Provision was made for expansion if the number of prisoners increased.

The hospital admitted its first patients on 18 August 1943. A senior medical officer, on a part-time basis, was in charge. In addition, there was a junior medical officer and thirty-one NCOs and other ranks. There were no members of the NZANS or NZWAAC on the staff. A few prisoners who had been in the Japanese medical corps were selected for work as ward orderlies. Specialists from Wellington visited the hospital.

The camp was under the Officer Commanding, Central Military District. Medical arrangements were therefore under the ADMS, Central Military District. No prisoners of war were repatriated during the war on account of sickness or in exchange for our own prisoners of war, but all except the few who died in New Zealand were repatriated after the armistice.

The treatment accorded to the prisoners of war was in striking contrast to that received by many Allied prisoners at Japanese hands. In the camp the Japanese were accommodated in eight-men huts with slat beds similar to those in which the camp staff lived. Food was always adequate and the prisoners were always well clothed. Sanitation was of the same standard as that provided in all New Zealand camps and was completely satisfactory. Water was laid on to all washing places and showers were provided in each of the compounds. Special facilities were provided for washing and drying clothes. All prisoners were trained in useful handicrafts, such as carpentry, cabinet-making and concrete block making, and were able to engage freely in games.

Apart from mild epidemics of colds and scabies, it was found that the Japanese suffered from malaria, hookworm, pulmonary tuberculosis and syphilis, with which diseases a number were afflicted before being brought to New Zealand. All prisoners were medically examined upon arrival at the camp and subsequently once a fortnight.