Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific
III: Camp Medical Organisation
III: Camp Medical Organisation
All mobilisation camps in New Zealand were provided with fully-equipped camp hospitals, whose function was to undertake the treatment page 249 of patients requiring hospitalisation for short periods only. More serious cases were transferred to the nearest civilian hospital.
With the mobilisation of the First Echelon in September 1939, camp hospitals were established at Trentham, Burnham and Ngaruawahia, and the medical officers and staffs appointed. Shortly afterwards the military camp at Papakura was opened and similar medical facilities were provided. Medical officers and staffs were also provided for Narrow Neck, Motutapu, Fort Dorset and Lyttelton and Wellington Fortress Troops. Later, with the development of Waiouru Camp, a large camp hospital was established there, and likewise a camp hospital was built at Linton Camp.
A close check was at all times maintained on the hygiene and sanitation of camps, with particular reference to the preparation and storage of food, drainage and sewage arrangements, the provision of adequate ablution and drying facilities, and the prevention of congestion in sleeping quarters.
At first each camp hospital at the three mobilisation camps had accommodation for thirty to fifty patients and a staff of five nursing sisters, two medical officers and twenty-five other ranks. Both the capacity of the hospitals and the size of the staffs were increased later.
At Waiouru Camp there were 100 equipped beds, while at Narrow Neck and Fort Dorset there were nineteen beds. The Waiouru and Narrow Neck hospitals had on their establishment members of the NZANS, but Fort Dorset was entirely staffed by male members of the NZMC.
A medical ‘pool’ was established at the Camp Hospital, Trentham, for the training of home service medical personnel to make them efficient in military nursing before being drafted to the various camp hospitals.
Permanent regimental aid posts were established in all mobilisation camps, fortress troops depots and with Territorial units. Medical orderlies with the rank of corporal were drafted to these RAPs for duty.
Contagious disease hospitals were set up in the three mobilisation camps and all Army and Air Force personnel suffering from venereal disease in each district were treated there.
At Trentham the rule that all patients likely to be indisposed more than forty-eight hours were to be admitted to a civil hospital was never wholly observed. An attempt was made in the early period of the war to carry out this instruction, but it was found that the numbers sent to hospital were far in excess of the anticipated numbers and accommodation was not sufficient, so that, until the page 250 Wellington Hospital Board opened the Racecourse Hospital, all those who were expected to be fit to return to duty within seven days were kept in the Camp Hospital.
When the war broke out the only hospital accommodation at Trentham was a small ten-bed ward situated in the Army School area. What had previously been hospital quarters was at this time occupied by four families of Ordnance personnel. New homes had to be built for these people and only when this was done could the work of reconditioning the old hospital quarters be put in hand. When the big influenza epidemic broke out in the latter part of 1939 the admissions to hospital averaged approximately thirty daily. To cope with this situation two large buildings, together with huts in the camp area, had to be used, and a special field kitchen was established for the feeding of the patients.
While this epidemic was at its height Dr Thorne, the Medical Superintendent of the Wellington Hospital, paid a visit to the camp, realised the seriousness of the situation and arranged to open a hospital in the racecourse buildings adjoining the camp. All the necessary equipment was supplied by the army authorities and army medical personnel were lent until the Wellington Hospital Board could provide its own nursing staff.
After the first two or three weeks this hospital was entirely staffed and controlled by the Wellington Hospital Board, and as the numbers of those suffering from influenza diminished, all sick from the camp were admitted to the Racecourse Hospital. Eventually the Camp Hospital accommodation at Trentham was increased to 120 beds, with special provision for officers and for skin and venereal disease cases.