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Report on medical care

Page 2 of 4

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It appears to us, upon this statement of facts, that the hospital accommodation in the field for the sick and wounded has been very inadequate.

The nature of this accommodation was, in our opinion, wholly unsuitable for the treatment of the sick and wounded in winter. Even the most comfortable marquee is not free from objection for such a purpose; but bell-tents, as well from the materials of which they are made as from their shape and size, are peculiarly ill adapted for hospital purposes. They are not always wind or water-tight, and they do not admit of more than three or four stretchers or any other form of bedstead being used in them.

The quantity as well as the quality of hospital accommodation was in our opinion insufficient. In numerous instances we found that many of the sick were treated in their own tents, for want of room in the hospital tents or marquees of their regiments. Although all the men who were on the sick list did not necessarily require admission into hospital, we have reason to believe that a considerable number of those described as attending hospital were not admitted into it simply because there was no room for them. In the 88th Regiment, of the 120 men on the sick list on the day of our visit 24 or 25 alone were in hospital, but more than double that number, we were assured by the surgeon, needed hospital accommodation. On the day of our visit to the field hospital of the Sappers and Miners, the surgeon in charge informed us that he had 14 patients whom he was very desirous of getting into the hospital marquee, but that he was unable to do so from want of room.

We found a general want of bedsteads, stretchers, and every other means of raising the men above the ground. Even of the small supply of Smith's and Clarke's stretchers at the disposal of the surgeons only a portion was used, owing partly to the insufficient number of marquees and tents available for hospital purposes, and partly to the incompleteness of the stretchers, many of which were without legs on the transverse bars, which keep them stretched. With a few rare exceptions, the men were without mattresses or paliasses. They lay, in general, on a blanket stretched over water-dock or rush-mat. In one case, underwood was placed under them. In another, the surgeon had spread white marl over the ground. We saw no bolsters or pillows; the patient's knapsack ordinarily served for this purpose. The supply of blankets was in some cases sufficient; but the men were often limited to their field allowance. This was in some cases, a single blanket, for although a second had been generally distributed towards the middle of December, as we were informed, this distribution was by no means general. We did not see a sheet in the camp.

Few of the marquees or tents were supplied with stoves, or any other means whatever of heating.

The supply of hospital utensils, also, appears to us to have been far too limited, when regard is paid to the number of sick, and the prevalent complaints, - diarrhoea and dysentery. Mr. Jenner informed us that he had not, on the day when we examined him (January 10th), a single urinal, bed-pan, or close-stool complete. He said that he had plenty of frames, but that the pans had not reached him. He also said that he had often been obliged to refuse requisitions for such things to regiments, especially recently. We found, however, in his store plenty of frames and metal vessels, which, though not destined for this purpose, answered for completing the article in question.

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