Capital and Coast District Health Board logo

The Management of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

The need for special treatment of patients with tuberculosis was recognised by the Wellington Hospital Board in 1903 with the purchase of a property in Otaki. A few patients were sent there to live under canvas shelters. In 1907, the Sanitorium was opened, a two-storeyed building, to accommodate 19 men and 11 women. A medical officer, Dr Allen was appointed.

Subsequently, the northern boundary of the Wellington Hospital Board district was changed to be the Waikanae river, and the sanitorium was taken over, first by the Health Department, and later by the Palmerston North Hospital Board.

In 1906, the Hospital Board erected the Seddon ward and shelters for consumptives on the Newtown site. Two more shelters were erected in 1907. The patients in the Seddon complex were looked after by the Medical Superintendent and the assistant RMO (house surgeon). In 1919, after the completion of a new Fever Hospital, Ewart Hospital (which had acted as the fever Hospital since 1910), was made available for the management of patients with tuberculosis.

In 1915, Dr Basil Adams was appointed Tuberculosis Physician, Wellington Hospital and Charitable Aid Board. He came with 10 years experience in the field and had begun to institute better systems for the care of patients with Tb, when he left after just 10 months to become CO, Sanitary Corps, NZEF

In 1924, Dr Hugh Short was appointed as part-time specialist pulmonary tuberculosis medical officer. He took over the running of Ewart Hospital, and established an outpatient service, the Chest Clinic. When Dr Short resigned in 1935, he was replaced by a full-time tuberculosis officer, Dr Gilbert Maclean.

The work of the Chest Clinic grew, and included follow-up of family members of patients with Tb. A consultation committee was formed, comprising the tuberculosis officer, a radiologist and surgeons, to consider the indications for surgery in selected patients. In the 1930s, a variety of general surgeons performed the occasional thoracoplasty for tuberculous patients, but from 1941, the majority of these were undertaken by Dr Eric Luke.

By 1944, the Chest Clinic had moved to the new 210 Block, and Dr Maclean had two full-time assistant physicians working with him, Dr Colvin McKenzie and . By the late 1940s, streptomycin had become available, and other anti-tuberculous drugs were soon added to the treatment options. In 1958, the last few thorocoplasty operations performed at Wellington Hospital.

Last updated 29 October 2016.