The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 1889. DR. MACGREGOR'S REPORT.
The annual report on the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions of the colony which has jußt been presented to Parliament is preceded by a very interesting review by the Inspector, Dr. Macgregor, of the present system of administration , some points of which may with advantage be taken into consideration now when the whole system is being dealt with by the Legislature. It is evident that the Government Bill on the subject was m some measure inspired by tbe facts and suggestions m the report. On the other hand Dr Macgregor states a strong case against the administration being handed over to the towns while the present system ot rating prevails. He says : — " The central difficulty of this whole question is that it raises the vexed question of town versus country. On the one band it is maintained that everywhere our social detritus drifts into the large towns — the unfortunate, the idle, and the vicious, from the natural instinct of their kind ; und the sick poor because of the superior advantages of the larger hospitals. This fact, together with all its manifold implications, cannot be denied. All that can be done is to point out that probably the most serious rock ahead of our civilisation is preoisely this fact — namely, that the whole tendency of our industrial organization is i% make the towns too attractive as compared with the country ; and the townsfolk must make up their minds to put up with, at any rate, some of the drawbacks. Further, the chief difficulty to be got over m tbe working of all our charitable institutions is theimpossibilifcxofgertm^ the taxpayers of the large towns, where the most layish charity is dispensed, to take the least trouble to prevent, or even try to hinder, the wholesale pauperisation that is going on. Nothing, 1 am persuaded, but tbe taxgatherer at the door will make tbe towns organize themselves to stamp out the professional pauper — by separating, on full and discriminating inquiry, the sheep from the goats, the deserving from the nndeserving poor." On the other side the fact that the country, and especially the pastoral districts, are heavily taxed each year by the swagger whose home is m the towns is set out. This question was fought out m America m 1854, and ended m a compromise, the estate paying a stated sum m respect of each person receiving relief, and the balance being supplied by the jiowns. Various causes, mostly abuses, she^ed this system to be a failure, and Dr. Macgregop concludes that "American experience ppint.B out tp us that the State must refuse to have any pecuniary responsibility for tha support of tbe poor, except by direct local taxation." The only foreign system whioh Dr Macgregor considers at all suitable for our circumstances is that of Ontario. Its principle is to get over the difficulty between town and country by State payments of 20 cents, a day for each bona fide hospital case treated ; payments of 7 cents a day for chronic cases unsuitable for hospital care. To meet tbe case of small hospitals where this rate of payment would not be sufficient, a supplementary allowance is made of not more than one fourth of the revenue from ell local sourceB #< For benevolent homes or refuges for m- door poor, the rate of payment by the State is five cents per head per day with a supplementary aid of two cents per day. All other costs of caring for paupers, whether m refuges or hospitals is borne by the local bodies. This ii just the point on which the new Charitable Aid proposals are objeoted to. If they came into effect Jojeal rates would be much heavier, while the reduction m general taxation would be imperceptible. Dr Macgregor attributes the enormous number of our local institutions to the readiness with which at one time these bodies were granted borrowing powers, and considers that from want of means most of tbpm are now inefficient to carry out their functions. All these bodies would probably claim to have a share m the administration of an Act for the purposes of vihiph they were compelled to rate their several districts. Locally- administered charity would probably be as efficient and should be more economical than that conducted by a central body. The whole subject is beset with difficulties, but at present those concerned will not look beyond the rating and administrative clauses, m which many profess to see a thiplydisguised attempt on tbe part of the part of the Oolonial Treasurer to increase the amount of general revenuo at his disposal, at the cost of individual localities. The broader question is thus imt sight of, and we echo Dr Macgregor's wish that tbe subject be put on a sound basis whjle our towns are still small and thoae requiring charity are few, and easily dealt with »n<Jer systematic 1 rt »r» n Nation.