Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sick Sisters' Hospital, Alexandria

In view of my previous post about 'The Daughters of Mars,' I thought I'd add an item here about one of the many Sick Sisters' Hospitals overseas, showing the level of care and comfort afforded to nurses on active service.

The Nursing Times, 29 July 1916

     A nightmare haunts the footsteps of Army nurses working abroad, the nightmare of being taken seriously ill. They see personal friends invalided home suffering from the effects of enteric, dysentery, nephritis, and other diseases which attack one with fiercer intensity when the system is already lowered by the effects of strenuous war nursing in a trying climate.  It may interest Army nurses to know that there is a very comfortable and well-equipped hospital in Alexandria for nursing sisters and military probationers. Visitors are at once struck by the air of coolness, restfulness, and daintiness which is characteristic of this hospital. Before the war it was a nursing home for paying patients; and the distempered walls, the marble floors, the many windows, and general structure of the building show how the comfort of the patients has been thought of in every detail. The wards give an impression of cool whiteness. The beds and lockers are white. The only note of colour is the deep saxe-blue linen covering the white screens. Flowers are arranged in highly polished brass jars and pots. The enterick, dysentery, and general wards, each containing seven beds, are on the ground floor.  There is also a small ward with three beds for observation cases. On the next floor there is a large ward with twenty beds, and one small ward with five beds. There is also on this floor a charmingly restful sitting-room, which can be turned into a ward should the need arise. The large, cool corridor on the ground floor is also used as a sitting-room. Patients are often wheeled there as a little change from the monotony of the ward, or they are carried into the garden when advisable. The hospital is provided with light, comfortable beds, which can be wheeled or carried outside, so that patients who are still very ill or very weak can have the benefit of the outside air with the minimum of discomfort in being moved.

     The sister-in-charge has a Red Cross fund, which pays for drives ordered for patients after exhausting illnesses. The hospital ship sisters have found this arrangement a great boon, as they are debarred from the allowances granted to the more fortunate sisters working in Egypt. From November 1915 to April 1916, 113 sick sisters have been admitted suffering from enteric, dysentery, paratyphoid, nephritis and jaundice. Only one death occurred, although the majority of the cases were serious.

     The hospital owes a great deal to the untiring efforts of Miss Dorothy Bates, who was sister-in-charge for some months. Miss Bates was trained at the Sussex County Hospital, and before going to Egypt did war work in the Sheffield and Woolwich military hospitals. Her staff at Alexandria consisted of two staff nurses and three probationers for day duty and one staff nurse and one probationer for night work. The kitchens, in a detached building, were in charge of an Arab chef. One house-boy and one Greek maid comprised the domestic staff. When the top floor was full another maid was allowed. It needs good management to nurse patients efficiently and keep a hospital in immaculate condition, but everything was done punctually, and the building was kept spotless. A recent patient writes that she never had to wait for the answering of the electric bell provided for each bed, and apparently small matter which affects a patient's peace of mind enormously.

     The sick nurses were very much attached to Miss Orr, late matron of the Orwa el Waska Medical Hospital, and also matron of the sick sisters' hospital which adjoined. Although matron of nearly, if not quite, a thousand beds she always found time for a daily visit to the sick sisters. Many times her comforting handclasp and sympathetic 'Poor child, I am sorry,' has cheered miserable sisters and probationers fighting for their lives in a strange land and far away from their dearly-loved 'ain folk.'

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