An Allied army medical officer who observed the functioning of the German
army medical services on the island of Leros and aboard a German hospital ship
has concluded that the German medical staff had inadequate personnel, lacked
professional skill and did not have the necessary medical supplies in this particular
operation. The following specific observations were made by the Allied medical
officer referred to above.
* * *
The Germans appeared to make no use of sulphonamide powder in the first
aid treatment of wounds, nor of sulphonamides by mouth in prevention of wound
sepsis. On board the hospital ship, the only two drugs of this type observed in the
dispensary were "Prontosil Puder" and "Sulfapyridin". The maker's name
was Schering and there appeared to be only a small quantity of these available.
A German nurse dressed one of the wounded on board ship with the paper
pulp dressing they employ. The technique was as follows: -- a large piece of
this material, quite unsterile, was smeared with vaseline from a tube and applied, in
this case, to a below-the-knee amputation stump. When the limb was redressed
two days later the dressing was like rock, as a result of hardening of the discharge
on this material. The stump was also raw red and suppurating freely, although it
had been previously healthy. This paper pulp dressing was used quite freely and
the sterile swabs used in the operating theater consisted of a core of this material
surrounded by a single layer of gauze.
After the battle on Leros, a German battalion medical officer asked if he
could be supplied with first aid field dressings as he had none for his men and they
were leaving the island the following day.
In one case a German medical officer developed a septic hand -- a simple
enough condition that could have been cured in two or three days by incision and
the use of sulfa drugs -- and the Italian medical officer in charge merely splinted
and bandaged it. Three days later the condition had become much worse and the
German medical officer was evacuated by plane.
In one German installation a single, rather elderly, German private appeared
to be the sole medical person in charge. He had not seen the German medical
officer since he had arrived. There appeared to be little discipline or organization
in the running of the establishment, at least from the medical point of view.
On board the hospital ship one man who had a cranial injury was treated
by the German surgeon. The patient had been unconscious for several hours and
his pupils were progressively dilating, indicating increasing intracranial
tension, probably due to haemorrhage. This German surgeon proceeded to inject
intravenously 50 cc of hypertonic saline pointing out that his senior physician
had advised him to do so. This is, however, quite contrary to accepted teaching
and the patient died two hours later. The same surgeon had never heard
of a Thomas splint and asked what it was when he saw it being used. He also
talked of pinning compound fractures of the femur, even in the presence of
sepsis, and said that at a recent meeting of surgeons in Berlin this proceeding
had been praised.
In one ward of a German hospital on Leros, fourteen German wounded were
deposited one night. They had already been treated by the Italian surgeons, but on
inspection several wounds were found that had been overlooked, in particular a
compound fracture of the humerus. No German medical personnel appeared to
take any further interest in these men until they were removed 36 hours later.
They lay on mattresses on the floor in a filthy condition and depended for attention
on Allied medical officers and some Sisters of Mercy.
NOTE. A specimen sample of the pulp dressing mentioned above has been examined.
The pulp dressing consists of about half a dozen sheets of thin, 4 x 4 inch wood
pulp paper similar to facial tissues. The dressing pads were similar with the
exception of a single sheet of gauze on the top of the dressing.