A History of the Isle Of Wight Hospitals by E. F. Laidlaw

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Isle of Wight Isolation Hospitals

The Notification of Infectious Diseases Act was passed in 1889 and in 1893 the Isolation Hospital Act. Both hospitals and local authorities had for a long time recognised the need for wards or separate institutions for infectious diseases and these had been provided both at Newport Infirmary and Ryde Hospital and a separate nursing staff had been appointed for these wards.

Now in 1893 the County Council recommended the local authority districts to form hospital committees and to set up isolation hospitals. Three such hospitals were established in the course of the next decade. The largest and the one with the longest life was that at Ventnor where the records are more complete than elsewhere so I mention this first.

Ventnor and the Undercliff Isolation Hospital

The Committee was constituted and termed 'The Undercliff Hospital Committee' by order of the County Council in 1896, holding its first meeting in the council chamber of the Ventnor U.D.C. on August 12th of that year.

Among the committee members were Mr. G.F. Ingram who was elected Chairman and Major T. Khyber-Paine, the General Superintendent of the Royal National Hospital. The hospital was intended to serve Ventnor and the villages of, or close to, the Undercliff, - Bonchurch, St. Lawrence, Niton, Whitwell, Wroxall, and Godshill. The Committee decided as a temporary measure in the first place to take a house, Rookwood, in Gills Cliff Road, and work was in hand fitting this for the purpose and furnishing it; however at this stage the Hamborough Estate in which the house was located indicated unwillingness for the matter to proceed and agreed to compensate the Committee for work already done. There was some delay and searching after this, but eventually two acres of land in Upper Ventnor were leased from Captain Lowther for 999 years.

Tenders were invited for the building, and no less than 81 applications were received, only 18 of them having included the deposit required; a loan of £2,320 was obtained, and later additional loans of £700, £150 and £400 were needed. It was not until 1904 that the hospital was finally opened and Mr. and Mrs. Cameron were installed as caretaker and nurse with accommodation, heating, lighting and a joint salary of 20s weekly + 5s for payment of assistants. While the hospital was being built some cases of Scarlet Fever had by agreement been sent to the Sandown and Shanklin Joint Hospital which the Committee had been to inspect before making their final plans for their own hospital. The Ventnor Hospital, properly known as the Ventnor and Undercliff Isolation Hospital, included four wards each of more than 350 square feet, together with a nurses' room, two bathrooms and two earth closets; there was also an administrative block with kitchen, a multi-purpose sitting-waiting-board room, and the mortuary block with a wash house, laundry, ambulance shed, cold store and sterilising tank, etc.; and there were living quarters for the staff.

Map of the Ventnor and the Undercliff Isolation Hospital
The site of the Ventnor and the Undercliff Isolation Hospital in Upper Ventnor.
Courtesy: Ordnance Survey

It was agreed from the start that cases of Smallpox should not be admitted; nevertheless in March 1905 there was an emergency over a patient who had just arrived from America with Smallpox; she had contracted the illness on board ship from another passenger; it was decided that she must be admitted despite previous decisions and her family were also admitted and isolated; they, or their representative, were asked to defray any expense if as a consequence other patients had to be sent to some other hospital.

The next year the Committee learned that it would be held responsible for damages if any patient were discharged prematurely and as a consequence the disease was spread to other people (this opinion was based upon a legal action in Liverpool). At this time and apparently for many years after, the Chairman of the Committee who, except for one year, was a layman had absolute right to admit and discharge patients from the hospital.

Inevitably admissions to the hospital were sporadic and quite irregular and the Chairman was authorised to appoint additional nurses at his discretion.

After a few years the hospital, which seemed to be filling a gap in the services needed for the Island, agreed to take patients from all parts of the Island and incidentally to disinfect items sent from Ryde. Some years later in 1912 the County Council in response to an inquiry said that they had no arrangements for the isolation of Smallpox cases; it was thought that if necessary such cases could probably go to the hospital ship in Cowes.

In 1913 the Isle of Wight Joint Hospital Board inquired about the use of the Undercliff Hospital for other purposes. I believe this may have been related to the recent opening of Fairlee Hospital which came to provide all the accommodation needed for infectious diseases on the Island; and it was the case that the use of the Undercliff Hospital was slight, especially in later years.

In that same year, 1913, however there was some difference in opinion between the Committee and the County Medical Officer; it seems that C.M.O. acted without the authority of his committee in concerning himself with the functioning of the hospital; indeed it was alleged that he visited the school at Ventnor and quizzed the undertaker's seven year old little boy about the nursing at the hospital! The Camerons had stayed only for a year and their place had been taken in 1905 by Mr. and Mrs. Kemp. Mr. Kemp, the Caretaker left in 1915 joining the Army, but the hospital carried on and in 1916 was thanked by the Sandown/Shanklin Joint Hospital Board for its offer to take their patients until they had been able to appoint a new matron; however this had been done so the need did not arise.

In 1919 a telephone was installed in the hospital. It was suggested at first that it might simply have an extension of the line to the nearby cemetery.

In 1921 the Committee rejected a suggestion that the Isolation Hospital should be amalgamated with others saying that it would be pointless since theUndercliff Hospital had always been able to accommodate all the patients who needed care, and they declined an invitation to a conference on the subject - all this despite the fact that in March 1919 it was reported that no Ventnor patient had been admitted since February 1918 and only one patient from the Rural District Council in the past four or five months. Mr. Kemp died in 1922 and his wife carried on with the help of a male assistant.

In 1925 the Committee was informed that the County Council was negotiating the purchase of Osborne Isolation Hospital (this is the only reference to such a hospital that I have encountered, and I believe it may refer to the Isolation Hospital which was part of the Royal Naval College at Osborne which had been disused). The final meeting of the Committee was held in March 1935; after that the County Council took over the care and management of the hospital,but it remained in action until 1942; in fact in this last year no less than 52 patients were admitted, but there was only one diagnosis, - the Itch. There is however yet a bit more to be said about the hospital in the early days of the Health Service. It was recorded in 1939 that the hospital was served by a horse-drawn ambulance, the last one on the Island; one wonders if it was the last one in the country.

Ryde Isolation Hospital

So early as 1875 at a meeting of the Ryde Town CCouncil the medical Officer of Health for Ryde reported that the Borough Hospital was in proper order for the reception of Smallpox or other infectious diseases, and that it had been empty for the past 12 months. It seems therefore that there must have been some hospital for such purposes in Ryde at that stage, - other than the Royal County Infirmary. In 1879 there is again reference to a Borough Hospital when the Medical Officer of Health, Dr A. Plans Wilkes, reported that the borough hospital would deal with infected bedding and clothing, having special apparatus for that purpose. He mentioned in this report that the birth rate and death rate in Ryde were 22 per 1,000 and 16 per 1,000, contrasting with the rates for the U.K. of 34 and 21. Infant mortality at that time in Ryde was 153 for 1,000 births. He also advised that all cases of Scarlet Fever, Smallpox, Measles, Typhus, etc. should be removed without delay to the borough hospital or the Royal Infirmary.

Map of the Ryde Isolation Hospital
The Ryde Isolation Hospital, off Rosemary Lane
Courtesy: Ordnance Survey

This hospital was a wooden structure, painted white, in the area of Ryde known as Weeks; it was known as the Small-pox hospital but was evidently available for other infections. It was moved in 1885 when Ryde Borough Council purchased land for an Isolation Hospital - about one acre off Rosemary Lane. - leased from the Manor of Ryde and Ashey, and there was set up on a brick foundation.

An additional strip of land was leased in 1911. The hospital came to have two buildings, the wooden one with two four-bedded wards and later a brick building for an ambulance and for disinfection equipment. Some years after this hospital came into use, a letter was received from St. Helen's Urban District Council, referring to a proposal from that council and the Isle of Wight R.D.C. and the County Council, that Ryde should join them in a scheme for a new isolation hospital. Ryde responded that they already had an isolation hospital, but would be prepared to extend it to provide an additional six beds for patients from St. Helen's, but that they did not wish to join any other scheme; however this plan was found to involve too heavy a charge on the rates and was turned down.

The purchase of more land in 1911 suggests that the hospital continued for some time after this. Moreover, the records of the I.o.W. Joint Hospital Board show that it was only in 1934 that Ryde Borough was represented on that board and made a contribution to its income: it seems therefore that the Ryde Isolation Hospital may have functioned until that year. This isolation hospital was of course quite distinct from the Ashey Smallpox Hospital.

Sandown and Shanklin Joint Isolation Hospital at Scotchell's Brook

Much of the information that I have been able to collect about this hospital, which seems to have faded from memory almost entirely, - as well as about the other three Shanklin hospitals - is derived from two short books by Alan Parker, - Victorian Shanklin and Shanklin Between the Wars. So early as 1882 a joint isolation hospital for Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor had been mooted, but got no further, until after the Isolation Hospital Act of 1893; after this Ventnor dropped out of any agreement, but Sandown and Shanklin after considerable discussion agreed upon a site of about three acres purchased from Mr. Alexander close to Scotchell's Bridge and in 1899 a hospital providing about 16 beds was built lying just on the north side of the road about 100 yards west of Scotchell's Bridge.

Map of the Sandown and Shanklin Joint Isolation Hospital at Scotchell's Brook
The Sandown and Shanklin Joint Isolation Hospital close to Scotchell's Brook
Courtesy: Ordnance Survey

Very little other information seems available about the hospital. It was enlarged in 1911, it was managed by a joint board from Sandown and Shanklin Councils and it was presumably staffed by the local doctors. In 1924 Shanklin U.D.C. wished to retain the hospital, while Sandown favoured closing it.

Shanklin also incidentally recommended an isolation ward at the Arthur Webster Hospital at this time.

From 1926 to 1933 it carried on as a Shanklin concern only. The Matron, Miss F. Evans had a salary of £200 a year and the Medical Officer at this time Dr C.R. Handfield-Jones had £20 per year + 7s-6d for each visit. There was a charge of three guineas weekly for the patients. However the hospital closed in 1933, but it was on the market for several years before it was disposed of.

Fairlee Hospital

The last and largest of the Isolation Hospitals was built a decade or so after the small ones serving the separate councils. It was created and administered by the Isle of Wight Joint Hospital Board, chaired at first by Mr. D. Dabell; unfortunately I have been unable to find the records of this Board and almost the only information about the early history of the hospital has to come from the County Press.

There was debate about such a hospital in Newport as early as 1902 and consideration was given to a site in Carisbrooke and later to land adjacent to Staplers Road. However eventually land from the Wickham Martin Estate was taken and Mr. J. Meader Junior of Cowes undertook to complete the buildingin nine months for £5,960. Arthur Gill of Newport supplied the water mains and the Isle of Wight Electric Light Company and the Newport Gas Company were responsible for the other services.

Picture of an aerial view of Fairlee Hospital
An aerial view of Fairlee Hospital - now the Mountbatten Hospice. The small centre block was later demolished and the main block on the right has been greatly modified.

There were three main buildings, the two ward blocks each with a double ward of about 10 beds to each half; and an administrative block with kitchen, offices and living quarters for the Matron and others; these three were set on three sides of the wide lawn and at some stage a small additional block containing three separate rooms and a service room was erected in front of the western block at the edge of the lawn; it lay a few yards away from the main entrance to the western block and was serviced from there.

Besides these three buildings there was a block containing boiler house, stores and mortuary, etc. and a lodge occupied by a lodge keeper and having at the back rooms and facilities for the disinfection of clothes, etc. and public baths.

The hospital was opened in 1912. Patients were under the care of the County Medical Officer and his staff. Many changes of function and alterations of buildings were to come at Fairlee, but most of them belonged to the later part of its history in the days of the National Health Service.

However it is perhaps worth giving here a summary of Dr Fairley's list of notifications of infectious diseases for one year, that is 1935. In this year there was no Smallpox, Cerebral Spinal Fever, Poliomyelitis or Encephalitis lethargica. Scarlet Fever had the highest number of notifications, 171; others were Diphtheria - 29, Enteric Fever - 4, Pneumonia - 16, Puerperal Fever - 4, Puerperal Pyrexia - 14, Erysipelas - 28, and Ophthalmia Neonatorum - 5. There were also 66 cases of Pulmonary Tuberculosis and 27 cases of other Tuberculosis notified that year, though these of course would not have gone to Fairlee.

The Smallpox Hospital at Ashey

The isolation of patients suffering from Smallpox presented a problem for the hospitals or local authorities which had to provide it. I have been unable to find precise details of how the disused school at Ashey was taken over for this purpose in 1919, but one assumes it was by the authority of the County Council on the advice of the then C.M.O., Dr Walker.

There was an outbreak of Smallpox in Cowes and Newport in 1919. A child came to Cowes from Southampton after being discharged from the infectious diseases hospital there where she had been treated for Scarlet Fever, but had been in contact with a woman thought to have chicken pox; arrived in Cowes the child became ill and was found to have Smallpox.

Twelve cases resulted in all; eight in Cowes and four in Newport; all were considered to be contacts of the child, the index case.

The presence of these cases in the Old School at Ashey caused concern to the Ryde Council; adjacent to the school was a farm which supplied milk to part of Ryde; on the advice of the Vet to the Ryde Council the farmer was required to stop supplying his milk, and the Council protested to the County Council and to the Ministry of Health, and suggested that either the Government should be asked to provide a hospital ship or alternatively a more out of the way spot somewhere on the Island. The Isle of Wight Joint Hospital Board also thought that the building at Ashey was unsuitable and inadequate and suggested that a hospital should be set up using an old army hut, which would be available, somewhere within two miles of Fairlee Hospital, which could be administered by the staff of Fairlee.

The Ministry of Health had a report upon the outbreak by the Inspector, Dr McEwen, and the Borough and County Councils asked for a copy of this report; but received the answer that the report was for the Ministry only and would not be promulgated. There was much dissatisfaction at this. The request was repeated and again refused and the Council then said they would seek to have a question asked in the House of Commons by the Isle of Wight M.P. It transpired however that he was ill and unable to attend the House at the time, but after a while another M.P. kindly took up the matter, and a question was put to the Minister of Health, Dr Addison, in Lloyd George's government, by Sir Clement Kinmont-Cook, only to receive the same answer, that the report was for the Ministry only.

There was further debate between the councils as to which of them was responsible for the expenses which had been incurred in the care of the patients treated at Ashey; the County Council seeking to divert the costs to the Borough Councils of Cowes and Newport whence the patients had come, and the Borough Councils of course maintaining that the County Council had had the obligation to provide and pay for the service. In the end the County Council had to pay the greater part of it, but the Borough Councils each had to make a contribution.

The County Council maintained throughout this dispute that the provision at Ashey was adequate and suitable and suggested that, if any of the other councils were dissatisfied with it, they should provide accommodation themselves. In the end as is well-known the hospital remained at Ashey. A deputation from the County Council visited it in 1920 and arranged for some alterations and modifications.

In 1930 a visitor to Sandown, who had been exposed to a known case of Smallpox in Enfield, before coming to the Island, became ill with a rash. He was seen by the C.M.O., Dr Fairley and his assistant, Dr Carpenter, and they also asked Dr Fraser, Medical Officer of Health of Portsmouth to come and see him here; the diagnosis of Smallpox was agreed and he was taken into Ashey Hospital on 10th April 1930. His illness was mild and he was discharged on 3rd May. The occasion was taken to overhaul and repair a number of tents and a marquee which had been stored at the hospital since 1919.

Ashey remained the Smallpox Hospital for the Island until with the elimination of the disease in the 1970s it was no long needed. It was inspected, redecorated and upgraded from time to time and electric light was provided, but so far as I know it was never in use again.

Public Health Before, During and After World War Two

In his report for 1936, Dr Fairley, the C.M.O. gave a table showing the various Island hospitals, their function, management, number of beds available medical and nursing staff, and annual turnover of patients; a modified version of this table is shown on page 138, giving a summary of the services available a few years before the war, and a decade or so before the N.H.S. (Table 1).

Ryde was the principle General Hospital and except for Whitecroft and the R.N.H. the only one with a resident doctor; soon after this date a second resident was appointed. The Frank James Hospital and the Arthur Webster Hospital provided beds for the local population; patients were admitted and discharged by their own practitioners, who worked a rota of on-call duties; consultants from Ryde County Hospital would see patients on request.

Scio House was a childrens' hospital with about ten beds; operative treatment was undertaken there.

The Isolation hospitals were available for infectious diseases, - Fairlee, and the Ventnor and Undercliff Hospital; Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Enteric Fever, and Erysipelas had been treated there during the year and Cerebral Spinal Fever and Poliomyelitis were among the notifiable diseases which would have been treated, but had not occurred that year.

Longford was the Island sanatorium for Pulmonary Tuberculosis and its beds there would soon be increased by the gift from the Rev. W.E. Bowen of the Catherine Bowen childrens' Home. Ashey Smallpox Hospital is not mentioned in this table, but it was there, and remained available until about 1975.

Whitecroft Mental Hospital dealt with mental disorders, - there is no mention in this table of the beds at the House of Industry for mental defective patients, although they were under medical supervision both by the medical staff at St. Mary's and the psychiatrist at Whitecroft and they did have a nursing staff. The R.N.H. was, as its title says, a national hospital; it usually at this stage had a handful of patients from the Island.

The C.M.O. had two assistants (or deputies) Dr W.S. Wallace, and Dr H Carpenter, - who concerned himself particularly with the Tuberculosis service and two dental surgeons, Mr. L. Cartwright and Miss Hedsall. These doctors were not directly concerned with the care of patients in St. Mary's, but reference is made to the close and friendly relations between the Public Health Doctors and the hospital medical staff.

The laboratory at Ryde remained the only pathology department available on the Island and its load was steadily increasing; in 1939 they asked for financial help, but in January 1940 the Committee declined to give this, - the C.M.O. was deputed to explain the position to Mr. Aubrey-Wickham (Chairman of the RIoWCH); this refusal was confirmed and repeated three months later.

The ambulance service was provided by the Council; in 1938 there were 7 motor ambulances on the Island and at the small Ventnor isolation hospital ahorse-drawn ambulance was still there. Two years later after the outbreak of war 44 ambulances were available on the Island; 6 of these were Red Cross ambulances and 11 were trade vehicles fitted out for ambulance duties.

In the years before the war there were 44 midwives in practice on the Island 28 were employed by the District Nursing Association, 16 were independent - 10 of them working in nursing homes; district nurses undertook ante-natal supervision in 686 cases; independent midwives paid 1,685 visits to 325 patients; Dr Linford, who joined the C.M.O.'s staff, held ante-natal clinics in Newport, Cowes, East Cowes, Freshwater and Lake; Ryde made its own arrangements.

Besides the hospital Out-patient clinics at Ryde, several clinics were held in County Hall, - for Tuberculosis (follow-up clinics); mental welfare and child guidance (also in Ryde and Northwood), and Venereal Diseases, and in 1939 a clinic for birth control was opened at County Hall apparently in response to a suggestion from Portsmouth.

There were 31 registered nursing homes on the Island, 9 of these took only maternity cases, and another 13 took maternity cases as well as others; at St Mary's Hospital 128 maternity cases were dealt with that year.

In the committee records there is mention of such things as air-raid precautions and black-out curtains and the provision of extra beds many months before war broke out. The Emergency Medical Service (E.M.S.) took overbeds in all the Island hospitals save for Longford and the Arthur Webster Hospital early in 1940. At St. Mary's beds had to be found by discharging as many patients as possible home, or transferring them to the H.o.I., - residents there being sent home; most, almost all, of the patients were aged and infirm, often very infirm; some never recovered from the move, and there was inevitable criticism and complaint in some cases. 52 patients were sent from St. Mary's to Forest House, 30 were sent home from St. Mary's, and 8 were sent home from Forest House. The initial plan was to use St. Mary's for patients from Portsmouth who needed hospital care, making beds in the large town available in case of large numbers of casualties; some 65 patients were moved from Portsmouth to the Island, 27 of them in the first two days of September 1939! It must have been a hectic time. There were 19 women and 7 infants; a few men came from East Cowes. At the same time, the Holmdale Institute in Havenstreet was taken over as an emergency maternity hospital for Portsmouth with 30 beds; this venture started on September 6th 1939 and was soon considered supererogatory and it closed on November 21st 1939; however in those eleven weeks 28 patients had been admitted and presumably about 56 discharged.

In May 1941 many windows in St. Mary's were shattered by a bomb but there were no injuries to patients or staff; and a year later came the heavy raid on Cowes, - it may have been this that led to the provision of air-raid shelters and strengthening of the 'vaults', presumably the basement at the east end of Forest House. In April 1943 another raid led to the admission of 23 patients; 4 of them died; by this time the theatre was available and surgery was provided for 10 patients.

In November 1943 the E.M.S. was requiring an allocation of 71 beds; these had to be on the ground floor there being no lift; however it seems that 38 of the 71 had been taken for ordinary patients. It was recommended that Shanklin Home of Rest (Winchester House) should be required to provide 10 beds. The next year there was a request to take surgical cases from Ryde whenever possible, to reduce the waiting list there, which might be so long as two to four months; about the same time there was mention of the need for a stock of Penicillin on the Island, - this was provided at Ryde by January 1945.

Dr Sylvester had been ill for a time during 1944 and Dr Peskett was unable single handed to cover all the necessary ground; Major Davis, R.A.M.C., from Parkhurst Barracks came and stood in for Dr Sylvester without formality, - one hopes that he and the Army received the thanks due.

After the war there was a serious shortage of nursing staff, which led to an advertisement for the appointment of ward orderlies in place of assistant nurses,.

The establishment recommended by the Classification Sub Committee of the P.A.C. in 1947 was for each ward of 49 beds, 1 sister, 3 staff nurses and 12 orderlies; there were also the superintendent, her deputy, and 5 relief staff; the 'surgical ward', Bonchurch, was closed. The maternity department with 11 beds and 12 cots had 1 sister, 4 midwives and 4 assistant nurses. The domestic staff for the hospital included 8 ward maids and 7 cleaners. In the wards for mental defectives, by now housing 101 patients, there were in all 4 charge nurses and 16 nursing assistants, 6 of them night workers. The Forest House at this stage held 102 men, 90 women and 26 infants in 2 nurseries; for the nurseries there were 12 foster mothers of various grades; and for the rest in all 17 orderlies, 5 of them working at night. In addition the House employed 1 stores-man; 1 dress-maker; 4 gate porters; 1 ambulance driver and 1 tailor; a laundry man and a laundry woman; 3 cooks in the main kitchen and 3 in the staff kitchen; 5 maids; 9 cleaners and 1 bath attendant. There were 13 maintenance staff, a head gardener-cum-bailiff, a second gardener and a garden labourer.

Finally there was still a visiting organist whose salary was £26 per annum.

In 1946, Dr Carpenter, one of the Medical Officers of Health, died and a lady doctor, Dr Jennings, who for five years during the war had worked unpaid in the Maternity Service, retired. Dr Fairley indicated his intention of retiring and in due course Dr Wallace took his place. In a survey of the hospital services on the Island Dr Fairley said:
'There is urgent need for more beds for acute sick and maternity cases if an adequate hospital service is to be provided. The ultimate solution seems to be to build a new district hospital at Newport, - the County Hospital on a smaller scale becoming a linked local hospital. With this in view any immediate development should take place at St. Mary's Hospital, and might take the form of 150 acute beds and about 20 additional maternity beds, together with out-patient facilities, - the present premises being used for chronic sick. This would form the nucleus for a useful district hospital, as and when the County Hospital needed replacement'.

In June of the same year the Ryde Committee mentioned that the Ministry of Health had recommended various measures for the hospital, but considered that it could not expand and was not well placed for a general hospital; not surprisingly the Medical Committee disagreed.

In the County Medical Officer's report for 1949, referring to the take-over, Dr Wallace commented:
'Although when 5th July dawned, no great change became apparent in the work of my department, it would be wrong to say that no administrative difficulties were experienced. Indeed for the first few weeks, the Health Department [of County Hall] seemed to become a clearing house for the Health Executive Council and the Regional Hospital Board inquiries... Many problems remained to be solved ... The new services provided under the Act are popular, - some staggeringly so, and the demands made for example on the ambulance and home help services have caused some embarrassment, and estimates of our expenditure have been made to look foolish'.

The demands on the ambulance service were all met, although there was an unexpectedly heavy demand for ambulance transport to and from the mainland which was both time consuming and expensive. In 1950 the C.M.O. regretted the transfer of responsibility for administration of the infectious diseases hospital from the Local Authority to the Hospital Management Committee. He also remarked that the major difficulty was in obtaining admission for the aged sick and subsequently discharging them. He paid tribute a year later to the good relations between the Health Department of the County Council, the hospital consultants, the General Practitioners, and the administrative officers of all departments.

Among the serious infectious diseases at that time, which did not respond to antibiotics, was Poliomyelitis; there was an epidemic in 1947 in which 46 patients were afflicted; this like the later one, was not by any means confined to the Island, - the incidence was high all over the country; in 1948 and 1949 there were relatively few cases, 7 and 9 respectively; then in 1950 came the epidemic which did so much harm to the Island, - at least for that year, and which led the media, always avid for a sensational headline, to dub the Island 'The Polio Island'; there were that year 54 cases with some paralysis and 41 non-paralytic cases notified in addition. 11 of these cases were known to have originated on the mainland; and 18 mainland cases were considered to have originated on the Island. 3 patients died and 7 in all had sufficiently severe paralysis to call for orthopaedic care. At the height of the epidemic the C.M.O. considered it wise to advise that children and young adults should not visit the Island; he mentioned, as was well known, that for every case notified and suffering from paralysis there were probably about 5 cases unnotified; in the absence of paralysis the infection produces no very characteristic symptoms; once patients have been paralysed any febrile illness with malaise may well be attributed to this infection.

Table 1 - Hospital Services available on the Island (c.1936)

Hospital Function Beds Admissions Management Medical Staff Nursing Staff
Royal County Hospital General 72 1121 Voluntary resident Matron 7 staff nurses 25 Probationers
Frank James General 23 282 Voluntary Visiting Matron 2 Sisters 4 nurses
Arthur Webster Cottage Hospital 9 110 Voluntary Visiting Matron 4 nurses
Scio House & Surgical Home Children's 10 178 Voluntary Visiting Matron 3 nurses
Royal National Hospital Ventnor Tuberculosis 157 314 Voluntary 3 Residents + Visiting Staff Matron 10 Sisters 25 nurses 15 Assistant Nurses
St Mary's Chronic 128 184 County Council Visiting M.O. 1 Sister 2 Charge Nurses
St Mary's Maternity 9 47 County Council Visiting M.O. 15 Assistant Nurses
Whitecroft Hospital Mental Illness 339 158 County Council 3 Residents + Visiting Staff Matron 69 nurses
Longford Tuberculosis 28 63 County Council Visiting M.O. Matron 4 nurses
Fairlee Hospital Infectious Diseases 31 51 Joint Hospital Board Visiting M.O. Matron 1 Sister 4 nurses
Ventnor & Undercliff Hospital Infectious Diseases 8 25 Ventnor U.D.C. Private G.P.s 1 + help