Monday, 5 March 2012

The Dewar Commission at Stornoway - page 223

The Dewar Report reveals some startling statistics as to the prevalence of infectious diseases in the Isle of Lewis around 1912

10,592. [...]You have had fifty-two deaths from whooping-cough last year. That is an enormous number of deaths ?

10,593 You have typhus with you almost constantly. It is really not out of the island for two years on end ?
—About that—perhaps not quite so bad.

On the numbers and distribution of doctors
10,600. How many doctors have you in the whole island ?
—In the parish of Stornoway there are two and an assistant, and there are three in the outlying districts. That is six altogether in private practice. That is 5000 a head, on the average.

10,601. It comes to roughly 4000 people per doctor in the burgh of Stornoway, and about 5000 to 6000 people in the other places per doctor ?

10,614. You referred to the parishes of Barvas and Uig ; there are two doctors there. The doctor for the parish of Barvas has twenty-four miles to go, but the public road runs right through his district ?

10,615. With regard to the parish of Uig, the doctor has to go to the upper end of Uig, twenty miles away ?

10,616. Do you propose to have three doctors for these parishes ?
—There seems a fair case for the proposal with the proviso already stated as to emoluments.

10,617. How would you divide these two parishes ?
—Assuming they were to be divided, I think one should be sent up to the head of Loch Roag at Maivig, and I would propose to have one at Carloway, the present doctor to have his choice.

10,618. Don’t you think the parish of Lochs is more difficult to work than the parish of Uig ? The doctor lives on the north side ; he has to cross Loch Erisort, and there are four townships there. Would you have a doctor on the other side of Loch Erisort ?
—I was thinking of that. After all, he lives at Keose, within ten miles of any of his patients as the crow flies. The place is being opened up with roads and there is hardly a village to which he cannot soon go by road.

10,619. By trap or pony ?
—By trap.

10,620. With the dense population in that district, supposing the doctor were ten miles away from his residence and an urgent call came from the other side of Loch Erisort, would it not take many hours before he would be able to get there ?
—Yes. Of course on the face of it it certainly suggests that there should be one on the south side of Erisort; but such an urgent call as you have suggested might occur if you had three doctors there. As a matter of fact, in experience, these things very very rarely occur. Certainly, according to the number of patients that a doctor has in other parts of the country, it looks too much to have the whole of Lochs under one man, and only a strong and active man like Dr Cameron could do justice to it.

10,621. Then you would suggest that additional nurses be planted over the different populous districts ?
—Yes; but before we leave that I should say that I lay very much more stress on the question of motor transit, telephones, and telegraphs, and the bringing of the distant patient into reach of the doctor by reduction or abolition of fees, than more doctors.

About turberculosis
10,623. About tuberculosis, do you think that any part of the great amount of tuberculosis in Lewis is due to the milk .?
—Yes, I am afraid it is.

10,624. Of course you have rather more than half of the whole of the tuberculosis deaths in the county, although your population is not quite half the county population. Anyhow, it is a very large quantity. You have a large quantity of non-pulmonary as well as pulmonary tuberculosis ?

10,625. And the modern view is that certainly a large part of the non-pulmonary tuberculosis is due to infected milk ?
—Yes, it has been my opinion all along that milk was a great causative factor in Lewis.

10,626. So that under the conditions in Lewis we may reasonably suppose not only that the cows are infecting the people, but that the people reversely are infecting the cows ?

10,627. The real remedy there is not to increase the doctors, but the removal of the patients, so long as they are producing disease, on a compulsory scheme. Do you think that would improve the service?
—Certainly, if we got a sanatorium on this island.

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