War Surgery and Medicine
The equipment of our hospital departments was left to the RAMC, which had drawn up a scale to be regarded as the irreducible minimum required. For an ophthalmic department this page 439 did not include a magnet, corneal microscope, or diathermy, but it was adequate provided that these larger instruments were available at some other hospital within easy reach.
As the Helwan hospital was one of the first to be established in Egypt, it was fortunate in obtaining an almost complete set of the standard ophthalmic equipment. Supplies soon became exhausted, and Captain Simpson's department at 2 NZ General Hospital on the Suez Canal and later at 3 NZ General Hospital at Bari, in Italy, was never equipped. It was not until Captain Trevor-Roper joined us at 2 NZ General Hospital at Caserta, near Naples, that we had two fully functioning ophthalmic departments.
As time went on and it became possible to buy instruments in England with Red Cross funds, a diathermy was obtained and later, in Italy, a corneal microscope and a supply of sodium sulphacetamide. Essential drugs such as atropine, homatropine, and argyrol were unobtainable only on rare occasions, and any shortage did not affect us as Coverdale had purchased in New Zealand and taken overseas a considerable quantity of atropine, homatropine, cocaine, and mercurochrome in crystal form. Penicillin became available for ophthalmic use in May 1944.
The supply of electricity is an essential supplement to ophthalmic equipment, and although we often lacked batteries for the torch and ophthalmoscope we were fortunate at Helwan in having an adequate supply of 220 volt alternating current. In Northern Italy, where enemy demolitions made us dependent on our own resources, the G1098 scale provided only one small engine of 3 or 4 kilowatts. We gradually accumulated several of these, which sufficed for lighting on a limited scale, and at the end of 1944 obtained a 16 kilowatt engine supplying 220 volt current.