In 1997, patients and staff from the old Toa Payoh Hospital and Changi Hospital moved to the New Changi General Hospital at Simei.
The hospital was to serve the eastern community, specifically those living east of the Kallang basin. The hospital was renamed Changi General Hospital (CGH) in 1998, and was officially opened on 28 March.
The British decided to build a new naval base in Changi.
The Royal Air Force Hospital was commissioned. The physical growth of the naval base in Changi between 1934 and 1941 was accompanied by the development of its welfare facilities, including the Royal Air Force Hospital. During this period, the Engineers held cinema shows twice weekly in H Barrack Block, where the hospital was.
During the war, Changi Naval Base became a Prisoner of War (POW) camp. During this period, many POW’s died of dysentery and other diseases. This was more than what the hospital could cope with.
Within a fortnight of the British surrendering, the hospital moved to Roberts Barracks which was rapidly converted into a gigantic sick bay. Block 126 became the operating theatre and Block 128 became the isolation wing for diphtheria cases. Blocks 144 and 151 were converted into the dysentery wing, with a temporary building nearby serving as the mortuary.
Roberts Barracks was still too small to cope with the number of patients who needed hospital treatment, so the Australians in Selarang set up their own hospital for 2,000 patients in the Officers’ mess and one of the barrack blocks.
The hospital returned to its original location on Far East Air Force Hill (F.E.A.F Hill), Blocks 24 and 37. More buildings were added to expand the hospital to cater for all the Royal Air Force (R.A.F) stations in Singapore. This was done by linking them with a new building (161) in 1962.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) Hospital went through a series of name changes under different administrations. When it was handed over to the newly formed Commonwealth forces of Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom, it became known as the ANZUK Hospital. Upon the disbanding of ANZUK, the hospital was renamed the UK Military Hospital.
Changi Chalet Hospital on Halton Road started admitting patients. Located at a former British officer’s club on Halton Road about 100 metres away from the UK Military Hospital, it provided emergency services to holidaymakers who had minor accidents or to people with other minor medical complaints.
Changi Chalet Hospital also provided X-ray and laboratory services to patients from the nearby Changi Prison Hospital and polyclinics on Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin. It also cared for SAF personnel and convalescent patients from other government hospitals. The Changi Chalet Hospital had 36 beds, an operating theatre, an X-ray and laboratory facility and an emergency unit.
The UK Military Hospital was handed over to the Singapore government as the British troops completed their withdrawal from the region and the hospital was renamed the Singapore Armed Forces Hospital. The hospital initially provided free medical care for SAF personnel and their immediate family members. One nursing officer and 14 staff nurses were seconded to the hospital from the Ministry of Health.
Its services were extended gradually to members of the public, charging them at the same rate as other government hospitals. The services provided then included A&E, general surgery, general medicine and dental surgery.
The Singapore Armed Forces Hospital combined with the Changi Chalet Hospital to become ‘Changi Hospital’ which was then handed over to the Ministry of Health. Changi Hospital comprised of an Upper Block at Halton Road and a Lower Block at Turnhouse Road. It had 180 beds and provided general medicine, general surgery, dental surgery and 24-hour Accident & Emergency services. Minor orthopaedic conditions were followed up at the weekly Fracture Clinic.
Patients from Changi Hospital were moved to the New Changi Hospital and Changi Hospital shut down its operations.
To meet the growing demand for medical services, the government decided to build a new hospital for the chronic sick at Thomson Road. The foundation stone of the Thomson Road Hospital was laid down in June, 1957. The hospital was set up to accommodate spill over patients from the Sepoy Lines General Hospital and was formally opened on 20 May 1959 with only two doctors, seven nursing staff and one commissioned ward.
The hospital also went on to build an excellent reputation for postgraduate training.
Well-known physicians practicing in Singapore and overseas received their postgraduate clinical training at the hospital. Nursing training was also formalised when the School of Nursing for Pupil Assistant Nurse officially opened within Thomson Road Hospital in September, 1965.
Clinical research was also undertaken during our initial years. Professor Seah, together with Dr Chua Kit Leng and Dr Jayaratnam were the first to discover the presence of tropical sprue in Singapore and to fully document this research. Professor Seah and Dr Chua also pioneered the first flexible gastroscopy procedure in Singapore.
In the 1960s, the patient load gradually increased and new facilities such as a surgical block and an X-ray department were added. We also started offering neurosurgery in 1965 and obstetrics and gynaecology in 1969. As the hospital took on more responsibilities, its role as an acute hospital offering a wide-range of medical services was recognised in 1968 when it was renamed the Thomson Road General Hospital.
The hospital continued to grow as we introduced new clinical specialties such as neonatology and orthopaedic surgery. The Department of Anaesthesia, headed by Dr V Sivagnanaratnam, who later pioneered the thoraic epidural band block technique for postpartum sterilisation was also formally established in 1971. More distinguished doctors also joined our ranks. This included Prof Lee Yong Kiat, who was appointed the hospital's Chief of Medicine in 1971.
During this decade, our doctors continued to be involved in research in the areas of lactose intolerance, gastro-intestinal bleeding and peptic ulcer.
We were then renamed Toa Payoh Hospital after the newly built satellite town that we served. This name was kept for the next 21 years.
In the 1970s, our X-ray and Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments implemented 24-hour operations. The hospital also improved its bed arrangements, providing for greater privacy and comfort. It was the first hospital to introduce B2 class wards, a pilot project of the government medical service.
The 1980s were characterised by rapid growth and expansion. Professor Lee Yong Kiat was instrumental in developing the hospital's medical services. The A&E Department underwent a face-lift—air conditioning was installed, two operating theatres were refurbished and the department was computerised to facilitate registration and the retrieval of information. In 1985, the hospital began concentrating on two key specialisations—Urology and Gastroenterology.
In the ‘80s, the hospital found itself operating at full capacity to cope with increasing numbers of patients from the surrounding New Towns including Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Yishun, Serangoon and Bishan. The hospital administrators soon started to look for suitable grounds to build a bigger and better hospital. Many sites were considered, including the land adjacent to the hospital but after much deliberation, a new site in Simei was decided upon.
This was a significant era for the hospital. Restructured on 1 April 1990 and through corporatisation, a new Toa Payoh Hospital logo was unveiled alongside the mission statement and corporate philosophy. The hospital also embarked on new programmes to improve service and care. To encourage staff to achieve a high standard of quality care, the hospital developed a unique Quality Statement: "To provide a level of patient care and services good enough for our own mothers without the need for special arrangements."
More medical services were provided with the introduction of the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department in 1994 and the Eye department in 1996. Within a year, it became the second busiest hospital in Singapore.
Through the efforts made to improve service and care, patient load increased to maximum capacity in mid-1990s. This left the hospital with no choice but to transfer patients to other hospitals due to bed shortage. It was interesting to remember our beginnings as a hospital receiving overflow patients from other hospitals.
Subsequently, Toa Payoh Hospital closed on 15 February 1997 while staff and patients were moved to the new hospital in Simei.
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