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War Surgery and Medicine

Medical Boards

Medical Boards

During the North African campaign 306 men, excluding battle casualties, were graded down in the ophthalmic department at Helwan, and it can be said that about 200 of these were regraded for conditions present at enlistment. It is worth while summarising the reasons for so many time-consuming medical boards.

To NZ To Base Total
Chronic or recurring superficial infections, including keratitis 41 9 50
(1) Without ocular pathology 14 1
(2) With old pathological complications 18 7
(3) With amblyopia ex anopsia 9 1 50
Uveitis 30 14 44
Amblyopia ex anopsia 2 39 41
Errors of refraction 15 12 27
Old perforation of the globe 12 7 19
Accidental injury 10 5 15
Cataract 11 3 14
Vitreous opacities 10 4 14
Miscellaneous pathology 10 3 13
Nystagmus 6 1 7
Detachment of retina 6 6
Retrobulbar affections 4 2 6
—— —— ——
198 108 306

It has been noted that conditions in North Africa were trying for men with visual defects and led to a high attendance rate at the ophthalmic department. Yet, in spite of this and of the somewhat haphazard testing in New Zealand, the analysis of medical boards at Helwan discloses that only 27 men were regraded for errors of refraction and none for errors of muscle balance. Nothing occurred to suggest that by the use of various refinements in testing a more efficient army could have been selected.

As time went on there was a tendency to elaborate the visual testing of recruits, due possibly to some dissatisfaction with the results obtained up to 1943. But the early defects were not so much due to weaknesses in the prescribed standards as to excessive decentralisation of the work, and it is probable that the grading of men from a purely medical point of view showed at least an equivalent margin of error. The problem was one of administration, not of visual standards or clinical competence.