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To the State Board of Charities :
The committee of the Board, on Soldiers and Sailors' llomes respectfully reports:
The State of New York maintains two institutions of this character, one devoted exclusively to needy veterans, and the other intended to provide a home for veterans accompanied by their wives, and also for the mothers and widows of veterans. The first of these, the New York State Soldiers and Sailors' Home, at Bath, Steuben county, was established by chapter 48, Laws of 1878. The second, the New York State Woman's Relief Corps Home, located at Oxford, Chenango county, was incorporated by chapter 468, Laws of 1894. These two institutions are in every way independent of each other, and yet the establishment of both is due to the same desire to recognize the patriotic service of the soldiers and sailors who in early manhood gave themselves to their country. THE NEW YORK STATE SOLDIERS AND SAILORS’ HOME,
BATH, STEUBEN COUNTY. This Home was visited on the 20th of June by your committee, and also during the year at regular intervals by the Board's Inspector of State Institutions. On the 4th of December, 1901, the President of the Board also made a visit.
Since the last annual report there has been little in the way of radical change. The staff of officers, with one exception, remains the same. The vacancy which then existed in the surgical staff has been filled. Changes have taken place in the corps of nurses and attendants, but the administration staff remains substantially as before.
In the matter of general improvement: The three cottages under way last fall are completed and occupied. The inspector, the chaplain, and the chief engineer reside in them, and these cottages, with those occupied by the adjutant, the quartermaster, and the surgeon, form a group near the main entrance to the grounds.
The amusement hall has been completed, as also the new canteen. The old canteen was converted into police headquarters. An addition to the main kitchen was built, but the kitchen remains inadequate and another addition or extension from the rear should be added to it. The ordinary repairs of the barracks have been prosecuted throughout the year, and much of the plumbing has been renewed. The addition of sanitary floors, closets and lavatories has been beneficial. This change ought to be continued until all the barracks are newly equipped. One notable improvement has been the extension of cement walks, and, when this extension is finished, these walks will greatly promote the comfort of the members of the Home.
The renewal of the heat and power plant is now under way, and when this is completed the complaint of inadequate heat and light will be removed. Some improvements are needed in the matter of drainage, for it was noted at the time of inspection that there was much dampness in the basements of the buildings.
This Home is greatly overcrowded. With barrack room for 1,650 men, there are over 2,100 members on the roll. Some of these are absent on furlough, but there are present, requiring accommodations, over 1,900 men. To give beds to this number it has become necessary to convert the basements into dormitories. As a result of this, the atmosphere in all the barracks is rendered heavy and injurious. The air for the dormitories is usually drawn from these basements in which men smoke during the day and where they must sleep at night, thus not only exhausting the oxygen but adding to the air the fumes of tobacco.
Besides the veterans domiciled in this Home and those in the Oxford Home, there remains a large number of dependent veterans for whom there is no room. The enlargement of the Home is necessary. This can be accomplished in either of two ways: The first is by the construction of a hospital large enough to provide accommodation for all the sick, and making use of the present hospital as an overflow barracks into which shall be gathered convalescents and incurables who require a minimum of attendance. The second method is by the construction of new barracks with capacity for at least 300 inmates. It is the belief of this committee that a fully equipped hospital will have to be provided in the near future even though a temporary expedient be adopted for the present.
The Board of Trustees requests an appropriation for a convalescent hospital, and while this committee endorses the request, it does so without receding from the position that such provision ought not to take the place of the large hospital which the institution requires. The present hospital is entirely inade. quate and is ill-arranged for convenience of administration. Its basements are damp, and from them foul air is drawn into the hospital wards. Every ward has cases of tuberculosis, although one ward is intended for the care of this class of patients. From the fact that it is not large enough and cannot well be separated from the ordinary work of the hospital, the germs of tuberculosis are spread throughout the building. It is advisable to have a separate structure for the treatment of patients suffering from this disease. Such isolation pavilion need not be costly, but should be equipped for the protection of the general hospital.
The present hospital ought to have verandas on each side of its wards. These now extend along the side and end of several, and furnish the patients the opportunity to enjoy the sun and air. They will give the patients relief from the air of the ward, as well as permit the wards to be more thoroughly ventilated than is possible under present conditions. This matter of ventilation is a very serious one. Pure air is so essential to the health and comfort of the men that too much stress cannot be laid upon the necessity for better ventilation. In the newer buildings ventilating shafts draw in pure air from without the buildings. The older ones, as has been said, draw their supply of air from the basements, and this should be remedied.
The laundry was found doing efficient work. In the general laundry the one great lack is for a steam fumigating plant in which the clothing of new comers may be sterilized. The hospital laundry requires two additional washing wheels, so that the bedding and clothing of the sick may not be washed in the same wheel which must cleanse the clothing of the well.
The appropriation for an addition to the ice house has secured a very necessary enlargement of that building. In the general kitchen the suggested addition would give ample room for an enlarged cold storage chanıber. In the hospital kitchen, as well as in the main kitchen, the refrigerators are now inconveniently located. This is especially the case with the hospital kitchen. The ice for this refrigerator has to be delivered first in the basement from the wagon which hauls it from the ice house; then it must be taken through the basement to a place under the trap door in the refrigerator room, and be hauled up by rope to be placed in the ice chamber of the refrigerator. This entails a number of handlings of the ice before it reaches its final destination in the ice chamber of the refrigerater. This handling means hard work, altogether unnecessary and wasteful. Besides this the room in which the refrigerator is placed is surrounded by steam pipes, and the ice is consumed very rapidly.
As the dining-room is so very large, a number of entrances have been arranged by which the men may have ready access to their tables. The bugle blows for meals fifteen minutes before the dining hall is opened. The men begin to gather at the build ing even before the call of the bugle, and during the interval between the first call and the opening of the doors the men are grouped about the entrance. During pleasant weather they suffer no inconvenience, but in exceedingly warm weather as well as on rainy, cold or stormy days they suffer from the exposure. Several of the barracks are connected by covered ways with the dining hall, and these protect the men of such barracks. If a colonnade approach to the main entrance were made, covering the walk from the driveway to the main doors of the dining hall, it would afford shelter to the men at all times and would be of great service on stormy days. Besides this it would become a favorite promenade for infirm members, and could easily be arranged with seats.
The general administration of the institution continues satisfactory. The officers appear capable, and a late expression from the members of the Home is that the veterans are contented with their treatment.
The discipline of the Home is mild and kindly. It is to be noted that the number of cases for discipline before the morning court is much less than at any time heretofore, which shows the beneficial effect of the present method. As drunkenness is the principal cause of the infractions of the rules, the lessening number of cases for trial shows a check upon the tendency to get drunk in the town, and either remain away from the Home all night, or return late and quarrelsome. The committee, repeating what has so frequently been said as to the evils of Belfast street, suggests that if it were possible to close up the large number of saloons on that thoroughfare, which is the main avenue to the grounds, the men would do their drinking in the Home canteen, and in consequence there would be little or no drunkenness. That little would be due to smuggling whiskey, which is punishable by expulsion. These saloons in proximity to the Home are its greatest bane, and legislative action should