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Memories of CGH and beyond

Changi General Hospital (CGH) commemorates its 88 years of care in 2023. To preserve the memories and care experiences at the old Changi Hospital, former Toa Payoh Hospital and CGH, CGH invited patients, visitors and staff — past and present — to share their recollections from over the years. Here, we share contributions from Toa Payoh Hospital.

I started my nursing career at Toa Payoh Hospital (TPH) 34 years ago. The good memories remain in my mind until today. I was stationed at Ward 1, which was at the ground level. It was a busy ward, but to me, the environment was great, as there was a big tree just outside the ward, and a breeze in the mornings. It was such a therapeutic environment not only for the ward staff but also for the patients. The TPH staff all knew one another as it was a small hospital. And, most memorably, I met a nice guy who worked in the maintenance department, who eventually became my husband!

Going to work was like exercise therapy for my colleagues and me, as we had to walk about 600 to 800 metres from the bus stop at Thomson Road and climb a long flight of stairs before finally reaching the hospital. The long walk could get very scary, especially during post-afternoon duties and when we were on the night shift!”

Hanidah Bte A Rahman, Assistant Nurse Clinician, Care Coordination, CGH

This photo was taken between 1989 and 1990 at the TPH Delivery Ward 3, which was the Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) ward. The O&G ward was closed after TPH became a restructured hospital. One of the best memories during my second-year stint as a nursing student was when I had the chance to work with a few O&G doctors, who are now reputable and well-known O&G specialists. Having had the opportunities to weigh, clean and bathe the newly-delivered babies before handing them over to their mothers was very meaningful to me. I am glad and thankful to have been able to participate in these life-changing moments of our patients — the first-time mums in particular. Different patients have different pain tolerance levels, and as an intern nurse at the O&G ward, I learnt to empathise with them. In the delivery suite, our patients were only separated by curtains — the screams and groans of the women in labour were easily heard by neighbouring patients.

As I walked in to the hospital’s labour suite every day, I was able to hear the heartbeat sounds of unborn babies from the fetal monitors. This was overwhelming at first but I soon became accustomed to it. The midwives were great to be around and I had a lot of fun learning from them. I was always amazed at how good they were at predicting when the mums-to-be would go into labour! That experience instilled a deep interest in me to pursue a midwifery course specialisation after I graduated as a Registered Nurse. However, later on, I decided to pursue my interest in another field, becoming a specialised nurse in the field of Psychiatry several years after graduation.”

Norhayah Bte Mohamed Noor, Senior Nurse Manager, Specialty Nursing, CGH (in green gown)

A porter’s passage


On Mdm Rasinah Bte Kahmin’s first day on the job at the old Changi Hospital almost 40 years ago, getting to the workplace set amidst the flora and fauna was a challenge as she almost missed the bus stop to alight at. “It was a very quiet and peaceful area with fresh air and lots of greenery,” says Mdm Rasinah, now in her 60s.

The nature of work then was very different. Many of the staff performed multiple roles. While Mdm Rasinah was a health attendant then, she helped with housekeeping, cleaning and also served food to patients. “I call it the 3-in-1 role,” says Mdm Rasinah. On some occasions, she also helped to carry out cardiorespiratory resuscitation (CPR) and ice patients’ wounds at the then-Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. She acquired such skills from the nurses after having seen many patients in critical condition.

Mdm Rasinah’s experience was not unique — A&E nurses doubled up as clerks and helped at the pharmacy, while doctors had to cover the A&E and also attend to ward emergencies. “It was a small and close-knit group of staff — and this made it a family-like environment,” she recalls.

Later, Mdm Rasinah cared for almost 90 patients in two wards at the old Changi Hospital. Her work involved sponging patients, changing bedsheets and helping nurses turn patients over in their beds to render care. She also brought food to patients from the kitchens via trolleys. It was a far cry from the smart Changi General Hospital (CGH) of today.

From the old to the new

After Mdm Rasinah moved to CGH, she continued working as a porter. The culture shift was evident, with CGH being a much larger facility and serving many more patients. The advances in technology and automation are also evident. In the past, laboratory specimens and items had to be manually transported. Now, pneumatic tube systems and smart robots transport items around the hospital, making processes more efficient for the care team, enabling Mdm Rasinah to focus on her specific job role.

During the H1N1 outbreak, Mdm Rasinah played a part in transporting patients to the hospital. More than once, she had to gear up in full personal protective equipment to accompany her nursing colleagues to bring patients suspected of contracting H1N1 from their homes to CGH. Having learned from this experience, Mdm Rasinah also worked on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a porter at the Emergency Department.

Forty years on, she still enjoys her work at CGH, doing her best to help patients in the best way she can, and is thankful for the learning opportunities she has been given. “Once, one of my children choked while eating — and based on what I had learnt at the old Changi Hospital, I was able to help him on the spot,” she shares. “That was just one of the valuable experiences I have gained while working at the old Changi Hospital and at CGH.”