From the Bexhill Observer 17th January 1914.
NEW ISOLATION HOSPITAL
Scheme to cost £6,400.
SHARP CRITICISM BY COUNCILLOR STEVENS.
Councillor Glover and the Medical Officer.
A long discussion took place at the Town Council meeting on Monday respecting the proposal of the Sanitary Committee for the establishment of a new Isolation Hospital. A good deal of uncertainty seemed to prevail among members as to the exact nature of the recommendations, and what the Council was committed to by adopting it. Eventually, after some caustic criticism by Councillor Glover at the absence of the Medical Officer of Health from the meeting, the report was adopted on the understanding that the plans of the scheme would be submitted and that the buildings would only be erected as required.
The Sanitary Committee recommended:__
(a) That the following permanent hospital buildings be erected on land east of St. Mary’s Road:___ Administration block (to include three bedrooms); laundry block; scarlet fever block (14 beds); diphtheria block (four beds); and observation block (four beds).
(b) That the existing diphtheria block be repaired, so as to be available for convalescent cases.
(c) That the present kitchen and rooms attached be transformed into an out-bathing and discharge station.
The Committee were of the opinion that the buildings should be of the usual permanent character, the cost being £6,000, and not “Perma” buildings, costing £3,900; and the Council be asked to approve of the Sub-Committee submitting plans and estimates for the erection of buildings of a permanent character.
A QUICK RISE
In proposing the adoption of the report, Councillor Gray intimated that now a scheme had been adopted by the Committee he felt more free to make observations which he had hitherto refrained from, in fear that the interests of the town might be damaged.
The Mayor expressed a hope that strong language would not be used on the subject, and mentioned that there was still a division of opinion in the Council, some thinking that the present accommodation was adequate.
Councillor Gray __ I will bow to your decision gladly. Knowing there are certain gentlemen on the Corporation who are very keen on economy, and anxious to bear with old-established workings so long as they can possibly be worked without actual breakdown, I was a little inclined to go very fully into this, and to show up the defective system that we have.
The Mayor (laughing) __ I am afraid you are using language which makes it worse.
Councillor Gray __ Seeing a scheme is well in hand, and will be put into effective working in a short time, the few words I have said can hardly affect matters. I hope we shall have such a perfect system that it will be a credit to Bexhill.
Councillor Dr Young, in seconding, said he thought he was as strong for economy as any member of the Council, and he believed if they carried this out it would be a big piece of economy for the town. The cost would be £6,400 and it was proposed to carry it out in five or six years.
Alderman Greed __ Do I understand it has gone up from £4,300 to £6,400?
The Mayor __ Yes.
Alderman Greed __That is pretty quick. I believe in permanent buildings, not shams, but if it is to cost £6,400 it ought to be stated here. I think it had better go back to the Committee.
Councillor Gray explained that the Sub-Committee were a little nervous in suggesting an expenditure which the Council might look upon as rather heavy, and as they found that semi-permanent buildings constructed of “Perma”, consisting of steel laths and plaster, were used in many districts, they thought that they might recommend them for the sake of saving £2,000. When they brought it before the Sanitary Committee, other members pointed out that they lived so close to the sea that the salt air would be destructive of the cement, and would work it away, and rust the steel laths, causing the walls to give way. The Sub-Committee were delighted, because they would rather have permanent buildings. It was therefore put forward as permanent buildings.
The Mayor __ As I understand the report of the Committee, it was the general wish of the Committee that instead of “Perma” permanent buildings should be put up, but that the money should not be expended at once, but only those buildings which are essential at the present moment erected, and the others gradually, and, as Councillor Dr Young says, it might take six or seven years before the whole of this money was expended.
Councillor Stevens __ Do I understand we are to vote for the £6,000?
The Mayor __ Yes
Alderman Greed __ We ought to have plans.
The Mayor __ It says they will bring up plans for each building.
NOT A HOTEL CECIL
Councillor Stevens recalled the £10,000 scheme which was brought forward ten or twelve years ago, under the late Medical Officer of Health, when the same arguments were used as now. They had now a new Medical Officer of Health they had a Chairman of the Sanitary Committee who was no doubt in sympathy with these aspirations and on top of that they had a further inducement to go on with this in the fact that a Councillor’s son was admitted to this building and did not find it a Hotel Cecil. They had been informed by the Medical Officer of Health, in reply to his question, that in the course of eight years the greatest number of infections cases they had had at the Hospital was 13 which were accommodated in the present building without any great trouble.
The Mayor __ Thirteen at one time?
Councillor Stevens __ Yes. That did not show they were pressed for additional buildings. He knew there was a great deal of difference of opinion as to the condition of the present building. The Deputy Mayor took an extreme view – he was surprised at the extreme views the Deputy Mayor was taking lately __ that the building was a rotten one. On the other hand, they had the Surveyor, Alderman Greed, and Councillor J. Rogers, all practical men, who said the building was quite good and capable of serving their purpose. Even this Committee did not hesitate to say they could continue to use them. It was only a question of additional accommodation. The Medical Officer did not seem to think there was any urgent need, it might come next year or in two or three years’ time. The Medical Officer said they should put up a class of building which would appeal to the wealthier classes. He (Councillor Stevens) did not think they wanted to cater for them, as those who could afford it would prefer to isolate their cases at home. It was their duty to provide suitable accommodation for people who could not afford to do this. There was the question of cross-infection, but there had only been two cases and yet there was all this scare about it.
NO URGENT NEED
Everyone knew that Bexhill was one of the healthiest towns in England; they rarely had serious cases. For a town to go out of the way to provide accommodation for an epidemic would be madness. There might be sundry improvements required to the present building, but he objected to vote £6,000 for buildings which the Chairman of the Committee would get on with as fast as he could. The Medical Officer had shown no desire to cause them to spend a good deal of money, and not only the Corporation, but private people. He did not say he was not doing right up to a certain point, but there was a feeling that their Medical Officer was beginning to run past himself. If there was a want of accommodation a sum of £800 or £1,000 would meet it. The Medical Officer had not been able to show there was an urgent need for the scheme, and he therefore moved that the report be referred back for further consideration.
Councillor Morton seconded.
Councillor Sansom, supporting the adoption of the report, said that he did not see they were committing themselves to the expenditure of £6.000.
The Mayor __ That was mentioned by the seconder of the report.
Councillor Sansom said if they admitted that the present Hospital accommodation was not sufficient, they could not be doing right in referring this back. It was admitted that things were not satisfactory, and as they were compelled by law to provide for the children who could not be kept free from contact, they must provide accommodation for them. He did not think they were justified in putting these children in anything but buildings of a permanent type. He should be sorry if Bexhill figured in a report on this matter. The public had little opportunity of knowing the exact condition of things, but if this question were put to the town, whether they should spend £6.000, extending over six years, or continue to use the present temporary buildings, he was sure the verdict would be that they should provide a permanent building for these children when they were ill.
THE MEDICAL OFFICER’S ABSENCE
Councillor Brown said as a health resort everything depended on Bexhill being able to show as clean a bill of health as possible. Therefore they should provide for any emergency that might arise. They built Dreadnoughts but hoped they would never be used, and if they build this hospital they hoped it would never be filled. The health of the borough stood before everything else, and they should be prepared at any cost to meet any emergency.
Speaking in support, Councillor Glover referred to his work in the matter during the three years he was Chairman of the Sanitary Committee, and said for a town which was eternally boasting of its beautiful cleanliness and sanitary condition, to possess such a hospital was a disgrace. The accommodation was absolutely awful, apart from the difficulty of getting patients up there, there was the trouble of keeping staff. The Corporation had been compelled to make arrangements with Hastings to take smallpox cases. He recalled the time when the Council were asked by a syndicate of private schools who were prepared to put down their money to provide better accommodation. Councillor Glover remarked that seeing they were asked to spend £6,000, he thought the Medical Officer might, as a matter of courtesy, have presented himself at the meeting to answer any questions. He hoped he would remember he was a paid officer who would have to do what the Corporation asked him.
Replying to Councillor Glover, the Mayor expressed the opinion that in passing the report the Council would not be committing themselves to the expenditure but only to the principle of the scheme. Under these circumstances Councillor Stevens withdrew the amendment, remarking that he thought it necessary to put up a building but not the whole of these buildings.
The Deputy Mayor, however, contended that the Council would be approving the £6,000 scheme by adopting the report.
After discussion on the point the Mayor stated, “We are pledging ourselves to build an isolation hospital, but not to the actual figures stated here.”
AN INSURANCE SCHEME
Alderman Paton considered that it was most important for a town like Bexhill to prevent a disease attaining the proportions of an epidemic. They could not cope with an epidemic, but they could by providing proper hospital accommodation prevent it. They did not want cases isolated in houses; that was the way to commence an epidemic.
The Mayor said this scheme was in the nature of an assurance or insurance against an epidemic. With reference to the medical Officer, he explained that he did not attend the Council meetings and was not asked to come to this.
Councillor Glover __ But this is a £6,000 scheme.
The Deputy Mayor __ It was said it was not £6,000 just now. (Laughter)
Councillor Glover __ There seems to be a general Punch and Judy entertainment interruption going on, and I should like to finish my speech. He thought that the discretion and common decency of the medical Officer ought to have suggested that he should have been there.
Councillor Gray, in reply to the discussion, said it was the insufficient accommodation which had led to the troubles they had had. Councillor J. Rogers had changed his mind and was now in favour of the scheme. He denied that they were thinking of the rich. They were only thinking of the poorer classes of the community.
The report was then agreed to.