HC Deb 15 May 1908 vol 188 cc1430-2
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

To ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the late Miss Ida Watson of the Postal Order Branch of the Money Order Department, with only three or four years' service, visited the official female medical officer on 30th March last on the ground that she felt seriously ill; that, instead of granting her sick leave, she was sent back on duty; that this young lady felt worse during the following week, culminating in collapse, having to be assisted by a colleague to complete her average on Saturday, 4th April; that she was on that day granted three weeks' sick leave by her own private medical practitioner and that on that night she fell into a state of unconsciousness and remained so for three weeks until she died on 28th April; that two specialists gave independent opinions in this case that death was brought about by suppressed influenza, and that if she had been properly treated at first she would likely be now alive; and whether, seeing that when the deceased entered the Post Office and up to the time of her fatal illness she was a bright healthy girl, he will say what are the medical qualifications of the official lady doctor to whom the deceased submitted herself for treatment; and whether, in view of the expenses incurred by the deceased's relatives in Ireland in connection with this case, he will order an independent inquiry into it with a view to prevent a recurrence of similar cases, and grant some compensation to the deceased's relatives.

(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) Miss Watson visited the official medical officer on 30th March last, with the complaint that she was run down after influenza. She does not appear to have asked for sick leave, and was given a tonic and instructed to see the medical officer again. There was nothing in her appearance or symptoms to suggest the presence of serious disease. Miss Watson voluntarily remained at work till 4th April, and made no application for relief from duty. The assistance given on 4th April was solely because she happened to be engaged on work of an unfamiliar nature. On the evening of that day she developed tubercular meningitis, of which she died on 27th April. I see no reason to attribute neglect of duty to the medical officer, in whose skill and care for the welfare of the staff committed to her charge I have full confidence, and to whom considerable injustice is done by the terms of this Question.


To ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the late Miss Houston, of the Postal Order Branch of the Money Order Department; had, prior to her sudden death on 20th March last, been ailing for some time and attending the official female medical officer, who treated her for dyspepsia and indigestion; that she saw this official doctor specially about a week before her sudden death on the ground that she felt seriously ill; and that, instead of granting her sick leave, she was ordered back on duty; and, seeing that the deceased died suddenly on 20th March, from supposed heart disease, will he take similar steps as requested in the case of the late Miss Watson.

(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) Miss Houston was under the care of a private medical attendant, and had not been treated by the official medical officer since 21st October, 1907, i.e., five months before her death. No question of neglect on the part of the medical officer therefore arises. I may say that Miss Houston had not been absent on sick leave between October last and the day before her death, nor was there anything to indicate the seriousness of her condition. I have entire confidence in both the skill and the kindliness of the lady medical officer concerned in this case, and much regret the implication unjustly thrown upon her by the terms of the Question.