HC Deb 14 February 1878 vol 237 cc1618-9

asked the Secretary of State for War, If his attention has been directed to the following statement, which appeared in the "Globe" of February 12th, as to the dearth of medical officers at the Cape:— We are at our wits' end for Army Surgeons. There are not even sufficient for all the Field Hospitals; and the General has authorised the employment of any Civil practitioners who can he got at an expense of from, I believe, two to five guineas a-day, so that the Government is put to an expense of about £7,000 a-year for the Surgeons in the field at present; and, whether that statement is correct; and, if so, whether he will explain how such an emergency has been suffered to occur?


Sir, I have made inquiries into this matter, and it appears that since the breaking out of hostilities at the Cape two medical officers, whose term of service in that command had expired, were detained there, and six others had been sent from England, some of whom probably had not arrived when the letter referred to was written. Twenty-seven non-commissioned officers and men of the Army Hospital Corps have been despatched as an addition to the existing establishment, and a considerable supply of medical and surgical equipment has been forwarded. The military medical officers are sufficient for the number of troops; but private medical practitioners, to the number of 12, are employed with the local volunteer force, and also at several of the base hospitals. The force is divided into so many small detachments that it is impossible to supply military medical officers to all, but the important appointments and the moveable field hospitals are in charge of military medical officers. With regard to the expense of the private medical practitioners, it is only temporary, and will cease with their temporary employment, and the rates of remuneration vary from 12s. to 40s. a-day, only one being paid at the rate of three guineas a-day. This expense is not greater than if military medical officers were employed, and is, as already stated, only temporary. The military authorities were lately referred to to know if any increase of medical officers or Army Hospital Corps had been asked for by the general officer commanding at the Cape, but the reply was in the negative.