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War Amputees Complain Of Long Delays

By G.A.P. '"THE majority of the men we saw *■ were very dissatisfied with the treatment they had received, the greatest source.of discontent being the long delays, unsatisfactory appliances in regard to limbs and arms, and the unnecessary trouble in pensions matters."

This was the considered judgment of Messrs. Theo Browne (president), T ft. Davies (hon. secretary) and iu. A Maney (executive member), of the Auckland War Amputees' Association, at the conclusion of a 2000 miles' tour of the waybacks between Auckland and Gisborne, during which they visited over 40 amputees, mostly from the present war.

The investigators found some distressing cases of official neglect in remote areas visited. One casualty from Italy had to make himself an artificial leg in order to try to keep his farm work up to date. He was using part of a cow cover, a piece of puriri wood, seme "gadgets" from the kitchen drying rack, with nuts and bolts found about the place. "It was a great effort," said Mr. Browne, "but it was definitely detrimental to the amputation, injurious to the stump and bad for his health. It was also pitiful and disgraceful that any disabled man should have to be driven to such extremes."

This ex-Kiwi is farming some miles from Kanakanaia, near Te Karaka, in the Gisborne area. He was measured for a leg in Wellington as long ago as January last and promised to be fitted in six weeks. He was afterwards notified that owing to .pressure of work at the limb factory in Wellington it would be three months before he could be fitted. Up to the end of June he had heard nothing further. The man's position now was that he was wearing his home-made pegleg, taking his weight on a canvas corset. His other leg. was severely damaged, the calf being almost blown away, which was causing great suffering in addition to the state of the stump of the amputated leg. Haggling Over Payment As instancing reasons for dissatisfaction with the treatment being given the men, the visitors quoted the case of a young farmer in the Aria district, * King Country, who, becoming impatient of official delays and procrastination, decided to order a leg for himself privately. He was fitted and duly supplied with a leg, for which he paid £37 10/. The leg was a below the knee amputation, but the ex-serviceman was anxious to get back to his farm.

In due course he was fitted with a leg by the Government, and afterwards endeavoured to obtain compensation for his own expenditure on the leg he purchased. He is entitled to two artificial legs. The Pensions Department, however, has made .an offer of £28 10/, the price paid by the State for a limb and is quibbling over the extra £10, though much more than that sum was saved through the ex-serviceman returning to work when he did and terminating economic allowance of 35/ weekly. The Amputees' Association, and the R.S.A. are doing what they can, with the Pensions Department, to obtain for the disabled sei'viceman liquidation of the personal debt he incurred, due to the inability of the authorities to provide him with artificial appliances that would have enabled him to become a national economic asset instead of a useless financial liability.

A disconcerting feature of this Kiwi's experience is that the Gov-ernment-supplied leg was condemned by an orthopaedic surgeon, and he was informed that he would be required to visit Auckland for reconstruction of the limb. Since last June he has heard nothing further. Travel Muddle Some 80 of the amputees had been notified to visit Auckland during a visit by Dr. Kennedy Elliott, who has just returned after a world tour of inspection and study of orthopaedic surgery and limb fitting, but only about half the number attended, as most of the men were unable to make arrangements in the time given. Here again complaint of muddling by the authorities is made because, with travelling facilities restricted, and many of the amputees residing in out-of-the-way places, a few days' notice is totally inadequate. In so far as arms and hands are concerned New Zealand is far in arrears. The officials of the Amputees' Association found that many of the aims supplied were kept hanging behind the bedroom doors of the limbless. Story of Official Inaction The story behind the present unsatisfactory position in New Zealand, so far as artificial appliances are concerned, is one of official inaction and lack of foresight, also a definite refusal to accept ahead of events the advice and representations of those mostly concerned. The New Zealand Amputees' Association before the outbreak of war impressed on the Government the state of limb fitting and limb manufacture in the Dominion At an amputees' conference called when hostilities broke out strong and urgent representations were made to the Government to prepare for the reception and treatment of new amputees and at each subsequent annual conference the matter was again pressed. The only reply received was that when the disabled men returned the services of the Amputees' Association would be availed of. Requests to obtain supplies of materials and equipment, and to have suitable experts trained met with no success.

To-day, with only one-third of the number of amputees from the war compared with the number from the last war (approximately 400 as against 1200), the country is totally unable to cope with the requirements those severely disabled men, so as to enable them to reconstruct their lives and rehabilitate themselves. The long delays and the dissatisfaction amongst the men from the present war are having a definite reaction on the morale of the amputees. They feel that not only are they being "let down" by their own country, but they are also being deprived of the opportunity of overcoming their serious physical handicaps so as to fit themselves to take their place in the economic life of the community.

It is acknowledged that with the arrival back in New Zealand of Dr. Kennedy Elliott, a known authority and with Mr. A. L. Nugent, of Auckland, at present overseas studying limb manufacture and- fitting some improvement may be expected in the future, but sufficient craftsmen have yet to be trained, and the action now being taken should have been obvious to the Government years ago in view of the oft-repeated representations of amputees. Added to the position of war amputees is that of the civilian amputee whose requirements have also, now, to be met by Government institutions. Their plight is even worse than that of the ex-serviceman so far as fittings are concerned.

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Bibliographic details

War Amputees Complain Of Long Delays, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 173, 24 July 1945

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War Amputees Complain Of Long Delays Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 173, 24 July 1945

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