I think that can be easily overcome administratively, because one hospital might be an annexe of Dundrum, and in that way the medical superintendent could transfer patients from the main building into the appropriate annexe. The new mental hospital should be equipped with all the most modern apparatus available for the treatment of mental disease and should have at its head a really distinguished neurologist and psychologist, who might be found amongst the graduates of our universities or amongst the graduates of foreign universities. My object would be to establish an institution here which would compare favourably with the best to be found on the Continent of Europe or in the United States of America; that from Dundrum there would then be transferred a dozen selected patients, who would be submitted to intensive therapeutic treatment for a reasonable period of time in the knowledge that perhaps only three of them would yield to treatment and the remaining nine, when proved hopeless, would unfortunately have to be returned to the institution as chronic and incurable to be looked after so long as they survive. Then another dozen could come forward and a similar course of procedure might be embarked upon.
I believe that out of that would grow a system whereby the Minister would see his way to take small lots of patients from all the mental hospitals in due time to give them the same chance of being cured. I go so far as to suggest that unless something of that kind is done it is going to be impossible to get any curative work done in Dundrum or any other mental hospital, not for want of good will on the part of the staffs of the institutions, but because they have too much to do looking after the daily requirements and the patients' normal health. There is nothing to restrict the Minister, in dealing with the Dundrum establishment, from subdividing it if he so desires.
I suggest to him that it would be desirable, in the event of his adopting my plan, to keep these new institutions, subsidiary if need be to Dundrum, very small, comparatively speaking, for two reasons. One, because I think the therapeutic treatment of mental disease requires the personal attention of a highly-skilled physician for each individual patient and so it is desirable to avoid having a very large number of patients in them. Secondly, I believe, if we are to develop the plan, we might have two or three of these hospitals and there would be a friendly and desirable rivalry amongst them to see which of them could secure the greatest percentage of successes amongst the patients committed to their care.
A good deal of work on these lines is being done in America and in Great Britain at present. Some work on these lines is being done in our mental hospitals by enterprising medical officers who, struggling with great adversity, are managing to make time to experiment in the most modern methods of treatment of the mentally afflicted; but they are not getting half a chance, because they have not the equipment and the time to give this matter the attention I believe they would wish to give it. I think it right to direct the attention of the House to the fact that this is a matter which should engage the perennial and very special personal care of the Minister in charge of this Department, because, in respect of every other branch of his administration, affected parties can make representations to him, or they can get someone to speak for them. The mentally afflicted, of course, cannot. While, on the whole, I have no doubt that they are well looked after, it should be the Minister's daily care to watch their interests himself, and to regard the mentally afflicted as his particular charge, because he is not likely to get the same kind of representation on their behalf that he will on behalf of any other section of the community.
This is a matter of very considerable importance. In other countries horrible abuses have grown up, and no attempt has been made to remedy them, until they became so blatant and horrible that they created a public scandal. I do not believe there is any serious danger of that arising here, but it would be a scandal if we allowed every other country to pass us out in the matter of treatment of mental disease, and left the mentally afflicted simply to lie in an institution like Dundrum without making any attempt to cure them. Now is the time to act. It has been done everywhere else, and we ought to be doing it here. This is the place to make representations and to stir public opinion in the matter, and if the Minister constitutes himself the champion of this cause, he will find public opinion very glad to co-operate with him. It is for that reason that I direct his attention to it on this Estimate, and also for the purpose of giving the Minister an opportunity of stating his view as to the desirability of advancing on the lines which I have suggested.