Topic: Dr Paul Mountfort

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Retired Senior Surgeon. My Arrival at Tauranga Hospital 1949

“Hello Mountfort! Nice to see you.  I’ve been on-call continuously for 35 days and now I’m going on holiday.”

In so saying, Dr Sligo handed me a bunch of keys and said,“I’ll see you in a fortnight.”

Tauranga Hospital was a single storied rough cast building with a tiled roof. From the outside it was quite attractive. There was a tennis court in front, with a drive for cars separating it from the Boiler House with a tall chimney.

The entrance led to a short corridor, from which there was a small Receptionist’s Office, with a switchboard, the Superintendent’s Office, the Dispensary and a public Waiting Room. At the end, was a larger corridor at right angles, which gave access to two wards, the Theatre, the X-ray Room, the Matron’s Office and the kitchen.

The two wards were identical; each was a large hall with a divider across the middle. There were two side rooms, a Ward Sister’s Office, a sterilising room and to one side, a sluice room and toilets. Around two sides was a glassed- in veranda for children and convalescents.  One ward was for females and the other for males. The patients were aligned along the walls and if necessary, down the centre too. The first half was for acutely ill patients and the second half for elderly permanent cases. There was a third ward, made of wood which had about a dozen single rooms, used for chronically ill tuberculous patients.  It was on a small rise, not far from the main block. 

There were a number of small wooden huts dotted about, for the carpenters, the painters, the laboratory, a surgical boot maker and one was used by a chronic paraplegic called Scotty Savage, who went out there in his wheelchair and made ‘home brew’.

There were two full time medical staff; the Superintendent, Dr Sligo and a House Surgeon, me. There were also two part-time surgeons, Drs Mark and Park who did the two lists each week and attended to the acute cases. They worked week and week about. The local general practitioners attended to the obstetric cases in the Maternity Annexe which was nearby. There was no physician, no radiologist and no pathologist.

There were some visiting specialists including a Tuberculosis Officer from Hamilton and later from Rotorua. He did a clinic every fortnight, seeing numerous patients collected by the District Nurses.

Mr Selwyn Morris, an Orthopaedic Surgeon came down from Auckland twice a year on a small plane, which landed on the racecourse. He saw mainly children with orthopaedic problems and adults by special arrangement. Dr Pickerill and his wife Cecily, both Plastic Surgeons, saw children with congenital defects and arranged for some to be treated in Wellington. They came twice a year and stayed for two days; the second day they spent operating on minor cases.

The X-ray Department had a main room with the usual universal x-ray plant, such as a couch with an over-couch tube for doing most x-rays. It could be raised up to the vertical and had an under-couch tube and a screen for doing barium studies of the stomach and bowel. There was also a very fine Westinghouse portable, which the medical staff could use when the radiographer was not available.

There was a radiographer, but no radiologist, so the doctors had to report based on the patients’ films.

The laboratory consisted of a small wooden hut, with some basic equipment and a few chemicals to do simple tests.  The equipment was not cleaned properly and the doctors were not trained laboratory technicians, so anything important was sent by bus to Waikato. In spite of all the problems, two areas of the hospital functioned very well.

The first was the nursing service. Tauranga was a training school for nurses and the girls were a very dedicated group who worked hard and well. The second was the standard of the surgery. Both surgeons were London trained and were able to perform excellent surgery.

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