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THE VICTORY'S PASSENGERS., Issue 538, 9 September 1863
THE VICTORY'S PASSENGERS.
When the Victory arrived at Port Chalmers, the Province can scarcely be said to have possessed a quarantine station adequate to its requirements since the great increase which its shipping-trade has lately undergone, and the quarantine laws are admittedly a ' caricature, by the fact of no sufficient penalties being imposable upon masters of vessels for a breach of.he regulations. There were houses, to be sure, which were very good in their way, and, so far as thenlimits went, capable of accommodating patients and ordinary passengers, but they were ouiy shells, not fitsed with any appliances rendering them i nmediately habitable. There was also a Health Board, consisting actually of four membera, whose duty h necessarily became to take stepscalculatedtoextinguish I any epidemic among the immigrants, and to prevent its spread among the general population. What is most questioned is whether, in doing this, the steps taken were the best calculated to allay and- to exterminate the disease among the passengers, or if there are not reasouable grounds for be ieving that they resulted in greatly prolonging the period of quarantine, in diffusing the epidemic to a serious extent, ani of multiplying the chances of its introduction into the Province. So far as the circumstances are known, the Board, after a week's delay, during which time no hospital accommodation was provided, removed the great majority of the families and single female passengers to the buildings on the Rabbit or Half-way Island. The buildings were not capable of accommodating the number even then" removed, but in I a few days afterwards the number was increased by the addition of a hundred or more. The captain, of the vessel had; threatened to cease providing for them unless all were removed ; the Board submitted to this coercion; and the people were r.moved on-the. open deck of the Tboma3 and Henry on one of the most severe days that has been experienced for a considerable time in Otago.. * Part remained in the inferior accommodation of the Thomas and Henry; there- ■ mainder were added.to the crowd on shore. < A pitiful" scene of overcrowding, confusion, and suffering ensued. In-the first few. days there were from seventy to eighty persons suffering from cold, convulsions, and otherjj illness induced by the exposure and the over-crowding. Tiaere was said to be only one patient illwith small-pox when the vessel arrived, but the epidemic now began to show itself in increased numbers, arid, thera being no means of separation, the mass of people were subjected to the painful spectacle, and to the serious risK, of from fifteen to twenty patients in all stages of the disease sleeping ainon •• them in different p«rts of the buildings. For the patients themselves the sam 3 condition of things was most unfavorable, surrounded as they were by a crowd of people, living in an oppressive and heated atmosphere, and with no facilities for the preservation of ordinary decency. Ultimately some tents and other erections were proposed as hospital accommodation, .but their construction was delayed by some difficulty in negotiating with the carpenters among the passengers, and by a short supply of timber and of tools. After consenting to work for a low rate of wages, the workman demanded the currant rate, but .were refused, and in consequence of their demand the Board adopted an expedient^ which, by its harshness and inhumanity, is almost inconceivable under the circumstances. '• We shall see what can ha done by appealing to their feelings through this," said one of ths members of the Board, placing his hand upon his stomach, and it is stated that, for the presumed offence of these seven carpenters, seventy men were ordered to be confined to the hulk Thomas and Henry, and to be kept on bread aud water ; and this was" dons—done to men already ennervated by along sea voyage, living in the midst of a dangerous epidemic, and* having no opportunity of appeal. Those who were bjuud by their position to execute the order could not describe it otherwise than a disgrace to humanity and to civilization. During this time Dr Garraud, who had been appointed Health Officer, was in charge of the sick, and he was assisted by Mr John Thomson, by four police officers, anl by nurses selected from the passenger*. Daily communication was kept up between him and the Board,' and his orders for building materials and medical comforts were attended to, but, as he states, only very partially, and lie was ultimately forced to adopt the extraordinary step of attempting to leave the island to procure necessaries for the patients; was only prevented from doing so by the interference of the police; and subsequently resigned his appointment with the intimation, that that was the only course left open to him if his recommendations aud demands as Health Officer were not attended to. Of bread, meat, vegetables, and other provisions there was always a most abundant and excellent supply, and it is creditable to the Provincial Government that it carried out the providing of the people with these necessaries, with a liberality which it is believed no one can gainsay. But, wuether from the peculiar opinions held by some of the members of the Board as to ths use of stimulants, or from other reasons, there is said to have been an inattention, aud an opposition to the representations of the Health Officer which resulted in this attempt of his to leave the island, and in his resignation. The assertion on the part of the Board is .understood to be, that there was an unwarrantable demand for stimulants as medical comforts, aud, to prevent their introduction, they gave orders that all boxes from friends should be opened, and the boitles containing liquor smashed on the bows of the boat. On the other hand, Dr Garrand asserts that in consequence of the critical condition of some of the patients through the want of stimulants, both Dr jSfevin and he felt that, without obtaining them, they were incurring the responsibility of manslaughter; and, in this belief, he was bound to adopt the step taken. Complaint is also made that, iv supplying material for hospitals, or extra buildings, by which the over-crowding might be reliaved, and an assortment of passengers made with some attention to decency, there were both dilatoriness and absolute nonfulfilment of the recommendations made, though the urgency of the case was indisputable. At any rate, quarantine, as carried out on this occasion, culminated in the number of cases being increased to thirty-four —one or two of them fatal—and in the production of an amount of discomfort and of physical and mental suffering among the. passengers of the Victory, which is the more to be regrettej, seeing that their confinement and their accommodation have already coit the country a sum amounting to several thousand pounds. With the comparatively limited accommodation at their command, the Board were no doubt taken at a disadvantage ; and it is to be expected that on any similar occasion in future, the result will be different ; but there can scarcely be an excuse for so gross a sanitary mistake as ( as to overcrowd buildings as these buildings were, ' while the ship remained to relieve the pressure ; there are no words strong enough to condemn the manner in which the healthy and the sick were subsequently indiscriminately mixed; and if there was an aggravation of their condition by indifferent attention to the recommendations ot tha medical officer in charge ie must be deplored that there should have been such a discrepancy between the wisdom of the Board and of that officer as to lead to such a result.
THE VICTORY'S PASSENGERS., Issue 538, 9 September 1863
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