Mr. Chairman, as a member of the committee on veterans affairs I am conscious of the hard and painstaking work done by that committee to make sure that the interests of the veterans to whom we owe so much would be carefully safeguarded in the bill the provisions of which have already been approved by the house.
I wish to join the hon. member for Royal in regretting that the estimates of this important department have been opened so late; in fact, on what we hope will be the last day of the session, which means that we shall not have the advantage of having a free discussion participated in by a large number of the members of this house. I hope that next session the minister may find it possible to bring down his estimates at a much earlier stage.
Knowing that many of the provisions for our returning men who are now students were carefully considered by the committee, therefore I hesitate to refer to any of them here because I know that the members of the committee did the very best they could to provide adequate funds for students attending universities. In spite of that I am receiving many communications asking that the amount be increased because of the high cost of living, which makes it difficult for many students to eke out an existence on the amount that is paid to them.
May I call the minister's attention to the fact that single fare on the railways was provided for a period of thirty days to these men when they were in the armed forces during the war. Surely this concession should be extended to them now, and I ask the minister if he will take the matter up with the railways and try to get them to do it.
Although I approved entirely of the setting up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I have always been of the opinion that the medical care and treatment of veterans could be better taken care of by the medical services already in existence. During the war we have had three distinct medical services connected with the three branches of the armed forces, as well as the medical services of the health department as well as those required for the civilian population. If this had been done the medical and surgical care of veterans could have been handled in such a way as to have ensured better care and at the same time have saved the taxpayer a great deal of money. I am supported in this opinion by the action of the Canadian Medical Association,'which sent a letter to the Prime Minister on May 29, 1944, from which I should like to quote a few paragraphs. May I say that during the war the Canadian Medical Association supplied five of its ablest physicians to assist on a board known as the Canadian medical procurement and assignment board, which was set up by order in council in July, 1942. In their letter to the Prime Minister they made the following suggestions, which will be found at page 3824 of volume 4 of Hansard, 1944.
10. A great national plan for health care is being devised, and it may be assumed that when
and if it comes into operation a large number of our people, consisting of the veterans who, with their dependents, will constitute twelve to fifteen per cent of our population, might reasonably expect 'to have access to these services.
11. Again, most respectfully, we would urge that in the interests of sound administration, careful consideration be given to placing all government health services in time of peace within one department.
The next paragraph is perhaps the most important and relevant to the position that I myself take in this matter.
12. In order to concentrate the expenditure for veterans' care within one department, the Department of Veterans Affairs could arrange to purchase the "medical care,"-using the term broadly-for this group of people from the department of national health.
13. We believe that if the health services were so organized, there would be a notable conservation of medical and technical personnel and equipment and that there would be provided a finer type of service to this very important group.
It . (b) That all federal health activities be incorporated in the Department of National Health, including the health and care of veterans. .
With these opinions I am in hearty accord. I will not amplify this at the moment, seeing that my time is limited, but I would call the attention of the committee to an act put on the British statutes on March 1, 1944, known as the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. The main purposes of the Tomlinson report were incorporated into this act, which makes rehabilitation and resettlement of the disabled after the war part of the nations social services. The state accepts its obligation towards the man or woman suffering any type of disability to recondition him mentally and physically as far as possible and to train him for a new occupation where necessary, to care for his family through his period of training, and to resettle him in suitable employment.
Another important provision requires all employers of twenty or more workers to employ a quota of registered disabled persons, the quota for each employer being a percentage of his total employees as decided after consultation between workers and employers organizations. The employer with less than his quota may not take on a non-registered person without a special ministerial permit, and a registered disabled person may not be discharged from his employment without reasonable cause if the discharge would bring the employer below his quota.
Moreover, certain occupations specially suitable for disabled persons may be earmarked so that vacancies occurring in them may be filled only by registered disabled. I think we might very well emulate the example of
Great Britain in this regard. It will be interesting also to note that following the 1914-18 war Germany made it obligatory for all its industries to engage a certain quota of persons disabled by the war.
May I now refer to a change that has come about in the treatment of patients as a consequence of certain new developments in this war, namely, the use of sulpha drugs and penicillin where, because of their use, old infections in bones known as osteomyelitis no longer recur, and as a consequence the frequent operations for the removal of necrosed bone at intervals over months and years will no longer be necessary. We can therefore hope that we shall not require active surgical treatment hospitals for a very long period after all our veterans are home. In fact, as soon as all the cases returning from overseas have had the necessary operations performed in neurosurgery, orthopedics and plastic work as well as in nerve repair work they will be dismissed from hospitals and will not, I hope, have to return except of course for emergency work that might arise from time to time. It means, therefore, that we do not require to provide a large permanent building in which to do active treatment surgery.
I believe that three centres have been established in different parts of Canada for the care of these special cases to which I have referred, namely, first, the neurosurgical cases, secondly the orthopedic cases and thirdly those requiring plastic surgery. May I ask the minister where these centres are and whether they are connected' with general hospitals or with hospitals under his own administration. I presume the determining factor in reaching decisions as to the location of these centres would be their accessibility to trained specialist personnel in the large centres.
This brings me to the point of asking the minister whether very soon it may not be well to consider what use he shall make of the large active treatment addition to the Sunnybrook hospital, the corner stone of which was laid in November last, and which will not be completed for another year. I suggest that when it is completed it might not be needed for the purpose for which it is being built. I have no doubt that it can be used for other purposes. If my suggestion has merit then the country might be saved the large amount of money which will be expended in providing numbers of operating rooms, pathological laboratories, X-ray rooms and other facilities which are needed in an active treatment hospital of that size. It might be well for the minister to ask a small committee,
on which should sit one of the leading civilian surgeons of Toronto, along with some representatives from his own department, to look into the matter, to see whether something might be devised to meet the situation which will arise if what I believe turns out to be true, namely, that before this building is completed all the cases returning home will have been dealt with, except a few fragmentary ones, for which other accommodation will be accessible.
I do not intend to refer to-day to what I said a year ago, because anybody who wishes to read the record in regard to Christie street hospital can look back to Hansard. It would serve no useful purpose for me to refer to it again. Over one million dollars was spent on improvements and alterations to that hospital. I have not now, nor have I had at any time, any criticism to offer in regard to the splendid work that wras done at Christie street and is being done there now in the medical, surgical and neurological departments.
Perhaps it is too late to make any change now, but if we have another war, and nobody can be sure that it may not come some day, a better way of providing accommodation for our returned men would be to build annexes to civilian hospitals already existing throughout Canada. In the large centres and in some of the smaller centres from coast to coast, where staffs are already available, and where these men will be assured of receiving the very best care and attention. Some hon. members will recall that this was refused Doctor Penfield when he asked that an addition be made to the Montreal Neurological institute, so that his staff of skilled personnel could be made available. When all of these cases are disposed of a few months after the end of the war the additional buildings would be useful as civilian hospitals. The committee will recall that at one time it was proposed that an addition be made to the Winnipeg civilian hospital, where the medical faculty of the Manitoba medical school of skilled specialists would be available. When the war is over and the cases are disposed of, this hospital would have additional accommodation to meet the civilian need, but instead of doing this Deer Lodge hospital was built outside Winnipeg. I am told that Winnipeg General hospital has a waiting list of over two hundred, which condition is duplicated all over Canada. I know that the same situation exists in Toronto. I want to commend the minister for the arrangements he made with the East General hospital to use the new wing, which was nearly completed at the time, for the care of some of these returned men. I believe they have taken cane of some 250 returned men
there and I am sure that he will be satisfied with the services which that hospital has rendered.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS