Report on Health Care Facilities and Living Conditions

Report #1

The document titled “Report #1” of the Sally Lucas Jean Papers gives a general synopsis of Sally Lucas Jean’s first impressions of the Colorado River Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp located in Poston, Arizona. She begins the report with a description of her arrival at the camp, where she was welcomed with much hospitality and taken to her living quarters. She then describes the climate, geography, and living situations in the camp. Jean also gives an overview of the education and health care facilities available. Two of the main focuses, however, are Poston’s public health facilities and the living conditions of the staff compared to the living conditions of the Japanese American internees.

In the report, Jean puts a large emphasis on the internment camp’s health facilities. Jean, a public health educator and nurse, arrived at Poston on September 30, 1942, to work for the camp’s Public Health Department. Upon her arrival, the camp’s health facilities were still developing, even though the first Japanese American evacuees arrived at Poston almost four months prior, in May 1942 (Burton 216). She compliments the development progress, however, stating that a “well-equipped and excellently run hospital” has been established thus far (“Report #1”). The hospital staff consists of Japanese nurses and doctors who, according to Jean, “cooperate fully and efficiently.” There are also seven trained Caucasian nurses, whom Jean describes as “splendid.” She reports that her secretary is an “intelligent Japanese girl,” and although she is inexperienced, she is “eager and competent” (“Report #1”). Jean seems to be surprised by the excellence of the hospital facility, and is very grateful to work with such a qualified staff.

Japanese American Nurses at Poston, 1943

The camp’s medical workers were continuously taking action to improve the facility. In February 1943, the first Poston Medical and Public Health Conference was held to determine ways to advance the health department’s growth and to increase the quality of service to patients. After a five-hour meeting, the camp’s physicians, nurses, and public health experts decided on a few ways to improve Poston’s Public Health Department as a whole. Obtaining more hospital beds, hiring more nurses, ordering general healthcare supplies, and increasing tuberculosis testing were some of the proposals made (“Poston Medical”). Jean’s report mentions that improvements in the health facility were needed, and that this conference was especially helpful in the enhancement of Poston’s medical services.

In addition to the public health facilities, Jean’s report also focuses on the living conditions in the camp. She has a very positive reaction to the barracks, mentioning the “excellent three-quarters bed” and that the furnishings are “sufficient for comfort and convenience” (“Report #1”). Jean and other Caucasian workers lived in separate barracks from the Japanese American internees. Staff housing was much more accommodating than the housing of the Japanese American evacuees, with amenities such as indoor plumbing, painted walls, cooling systems, and refrigerators (PJD 158).

Exterior view of a barrack at Poston

The barracks occupied by the Japanese American evacuees were in comparably poor condition, but they tried to make the best of their living situations. Jean states that by the time she arrived in Poston, many families had already decorated their barracks, showing “indications of culture” in the camp (“Report #1”). Nonetheless, it was hard to disguise how dirty and barren the barracks were.

In most of the evacuees’ housing, there was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and the only furnishings were a few small cots and makeshift bookshelves and tables (PJD, 159). Compared to Jean’s barrack, which housed only 12 staff members, the evacuees lived in cramped quarters where “whole families lived together in roughly divided spaces.” Sometimes over six families would live in one block of barracks (“Report #1”). Because of racial prejudice, Poston’s staff members undeniably resided in higher quality housing than the Japanese American internees.

Jean’s initial report on the circumstances at Poston War Relocation Center is significant because it gives outsiders a quick glimpse into what life was like in the camp. By giving a reliable description of the barracks and health care facilities with no embellishments, readers of the report are able to better understand the circumstances faced in Poston, both positive and negative.

Ellen Gould 

Sources:

Burton, Jeffery F. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. University of Washington Press, 2002. Google eBooks. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

“Report #1,” Folder 74, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Poston Medical, Public Health Conference Successfully Held in Unit One.” Poston Chronicle. 18 Feb. 1943. Densho Digital Archive. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://archive.densho.org/main.aspx>