The Boer War Nurses' Database is down at present, so I've not been able to identify Mrs Chamberlain, of Stratford-upon-Avon.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN HOSPITALS.
STRONG INDICTMENT BY MRS. R. CHAMBERLAIN.
Mrs. Richard Chamberlain has returned from South Africa, where she has rendered invaluable service amongst the hospitals around Capetown, No. 1 in particular. Mrs. Chamberlain went out early in the campaign, and she has had ample opportunity of seeing how the base hospitals, at least, were conducted. "Every word that Mr. Burdett-Coutts has said with regard to the dreadful mismanagement of the hospitals is true, and much more than he has said is true," she told a Press representative who interviewed her on Monday night. "Base hospitals at a place like Capetown, where everything necessary for their equipment can be had on the shortest notion, ought to be in as good condition as a London hospital. In reality they were worse than the field hospitals. I can speak more particularly with respect to the No. 1 Base Hospital at Capetown, where I worked seven months. It had as beautiful a situation as anyone could have desired, right on the face of a hill. No attempt had been made to clean the buildings before the men were taken in, and the result was that in a very short time the patients had to be covered with insect powder to keep off the vermin. The scandalous state of affairs was repeatedly brought under the notice of the military authorities, but they paid no attention. The nursing staff was wholly inadequate. On an average, when I went there, there was one sister to every 175 men, night and day. What made the neglect more unjustifiable was the fact that about that time there were any amount of sisters in Capetown. They had come from Johannesburg, and they would have been glad to have accepted situations; but the authorities preferred to let the men die for want of adequate nursing rather than employ these women, and I have no hesitation in saying that this was the cause of many a man's death. Then there was an absolute want of discipline. There were plenty of good orderlies, but they were not properly managed. The supply of milk was insufficient; tinned milk was substituted for fresh, and, although the milk was obtained from several sources, it was never sterilised. No proper means were used for disinfecting the linen. After being taken off a typhoid patient it was placed on a convalescent, with only a wash through cold water. The drainage was also bad. The very natural result was that typhoid cases actually originated in this beautiful No. 1 Hospital. Utensils of every kind which had been used for typhoid patients were indiscriminately given to other patients. Now there was no reason whatever why any of these disgraces should have existed. There was plenty and to spare of everything if it had been allowed to be distributed. But the Surgeon-General and the Base Commandant threw every obstacle in the way. With a few exceptions, the Army doctors were a low class of men. They neglected patients under their care, were unacquainted with the most elementary military rules, and abused their authority in a way that can only be realised by those who, like myself, have had for many months a daily experience of them. The Army doctors were not supervised, and they did pretty much as they liked. It is a bad system, and when badly administered by bad doctors there is really no redress. The civilian doctors did all in their power, but they were really unable to get the necessary redress."
Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, Friday 31st August 1900