Changi General Hospital, Singapore (CGH) was officially opened on 28 March 1998. Changi General Hospital is Singapore's first purpose-built general hospital, serving communities in the east and northeast regions.
CGH replaced the old Toa Payoh Hospital and Changi Hospital and inherited the rich heritage and culture of its predecessors. A history of Toa Payoh Hospital, Changi Hospital and Changi General Hospital is condensed into the three sections below:
1960s: Building Our Reputation
To meet the growing demand for medical services, the government decided to build a new hospital for the chronic sick at Thomson Road, named Thomson Road Hospital. The foundation stone was laid for the hospital in June 1957. Estimated to cost $4.5 million, it was set up to accommodate spillover patients from the Sepoy Lines General Hospital (later renamed Outram Road General Hospital and then Singapore General Hospital). Thomson Road Hospital was formally opened on 20 May 1959 with only 2 doctors, 7 nursing staff and 1 commissioned ward.
The initial years were a struggle as the spartan hospital had limited funds and equipment. However, the staff were undaunted. A team of dedicated doctors, led by Professor Seah Cheng Siang, our first medical superintendent, built the reputation of the hospital as a medical institution providing quality care. He assembled an excellent team of doctors, including Dr Andrew Chew. Very soon, the quality of medical care became well respected in Singapore and referrals were brisk.
The hospital also went on to build an excellent reputation for postgraduate training. Well-known physicians practicing in Singapore and overseas (like Professor Lim Pin, Dr F J Jayaratnam and many others) received their postgraduate clinical training in our hospital. Nursing training was formalised when the School of Nursing for Pupil Assistant Nurse was officially opened within Thomson Road Hospital in September 1965.
Clinical research was also undertaken. 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. Prof 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. The surgical and X-ray departments were set up, the former headed by Dr Choo Jim Eng. 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.
1970s: Pioneering Research & Pilot Projects
The Hospital continued to grow as we introduced new clinical specialties to the public, which included neonatology and orthopaedic surgery. The Department of Anaesthesia was also formally established in 1971. It was headed by Dr V Sivagnanaratnam, who later pioneered the thoraic epidural band block technique for postpartum sterilisation. 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, for example, in the areas of lactose intolerance, gastro-intestinal bleeding and peptic ulcer.
We were renamed Toa Payoh Hospital, after the newly built satellite town that we served. We kept this name for the next 21 years. In the 1970s, our X-ray and Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments became operational for 24 hours a day. The hospital also improved its bed arrangements, providing for greater privacy and comfort. We were the first hospital to introduce B2 class wards, which was a pilot project of the government medical service.
1980s: Rapid Growth & Expansion
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 and two operating theatres were refurbished. 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 administrators were soon looking for suitable grounds to build a bigger and better hospital. Many sites were considered, including the land adjacent to the hospital. After much deliberation, a new site in Simei, in close proximity to three major expressways and 400 metres from the MRT station, was decided upon.
1990s: Restructuring & Relocation
This was a significant era for the hospital. We restructured on 1 April 1990. With corporatisation, a new Toa Payoh Hospital logo was unveiled, along with our mission statement and corporate philosophy. We also embarked on new programmes to improve our service and care. To encourage our 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 ENT department in 1994 and the Eye department in 1996. The ENT department was set up by Dr Amar Kaur. Within a year, it had become the second busiest in Singapore.
Through the efforts we made to improve our service and care, our 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 a shortage of beds. It is interesting to remember our beginnings as a hospital receiving overflow patients from other hospitals.
The Toa Payoh Hospital was closed on 15 February 1997 and staff and patients were moved to the new hospital in Simei.
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1923: The British decided to build a new naval base in Changi.
1935: 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.
1942–1945: During the war, Changi Naval Base became a POW camp. During this period, many POWs were dying of dysentery and other diseases. This was more than what this hospital on top of Barrack Hill could cope with.
Within a fortnight of the British surrender, the hospital was moved to Roberts Barracks, where all the barrack blocks were 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 numbers 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.
1950s–1960s: 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.
1965–1974: 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 the Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom (ANZUK), it became known as the ANZUK Hospital. Upon the disbanding of ANZUK, the hospital was renamed the UK Military Hospital.
January 1975: 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. Completed at a cost of about $1.2 million, the Changi Chalet Hospital had 36 beds, an operating theatre, an X-ray and laboratory facility and an emergency unit.
December 1975: 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’. It was meant to provide 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 the same rates as other government hospitals. The services provided then included A&E, general surgery, general medicine and dental surgery.
July 1976: The Singapore Armed Forces Hospital combined with the Changi Chalet Hospital to become ‘Changi Hospital’, which was 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.
January 1997: Patients from Changi Hospital were moved to the New Changi Hospital and Changi Hospital shut down its operations.
Changi General Hospital, Singapore
(CGH) was opened on schedule and within budget. In line with the government's master plan on healthcare, CGH was designated to be the regional hospital for Singaporeans living east of the Kallang Basin. Serving the eastern community, the hospital was officially opened by then Deputy Prime Minister BG (NS) Lee Hsien Loong on 28 March 1998.
Expansion, Enhancement and Clinical Excellence
CGH expanded its services and facilities to serve an increasing number of patients. By 2010, the hospital was a serving a population of 1.3 million, compared to just 750,000 when it was first opened.
Our A&E, which is well-equipped to treat all trauma and non-trauma medical and surgical emergencies, is one of the busiest in Singapore. Our hospital admissions and Specialist Clinic patients have also increased tremendously.
To cater to increasing demand, we recruited more doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists. CGH also introduced more clinical specialities to meet the growing healthcare needs of the community.
We introduced dermatology service, psychological medicine, geriatric medicine, psycho-traumatology service, an Integrated Sleep Service, Breast
Centre@changi, an Endoscopy Centre and the Changi Sports Medicine Centre (CSMC). CSMC is Singapore’s biggest multi-disciplinary sports medicine centre providing quality sports rehabilitation and performance enhancement programmes since 2003.
Due to strong word-of-mouth recommendations about CGH’s quality of care and service, we also started to receive foreign patients from the region. They come to us with various medical problems, such as liver disease, breast cancer and sleep disorders. The hospital officially opened its International Medicine Centre on 3 August 2007.
CGH’s quality of clinical care was benchmarked against international standards when we became the second hospital in Singapore to receive the Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation in 11 June 2005. We were also the first hospital to have a JCI accreditation for our Heart Failure Programme and Acute Myocardial Infarction Programme. We have implemented more evidence-based clinical pathways and deployed nurse coordinators for specific diseases, such as asthma and heart failure to help our patients manage their illnesses better.
To support medical research, a Clinical Trials and Research Unit (CTRU) was set up with the facility to conduct Phase I, II, III and IV clinical trials in February 2003.
In this decade, we were in the forefront of the national battle against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 and Influenza A (H1N1) in 2009. During this period, staff had to don Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and worked tirelessly to treat patients afflicted with this disease and to prevent further infections. All visitors were screened at entry. To improve care for HIV patients, CGH was the first hospital to provide voluntary HIV screening for all adult inpatients in 2007.
We listen to our patients through a variety of channels: feedback forms, phone calls, emails, letters, cards and feedback lunches. and we are relentless in our efforts to improve our service. For example, in 2001, we developed the “Say It Right” communication training programme for doctors, the first of its kind in Singapore. It is now established as part of the training for SingHealth medical professionals.
CGH is constantly harnessing the power of information technology (IT) to deliver higher levels of care and service. Numerous e-services have been developed for the convenience of our patients , from appointment making, request for medical records, an online pharmacy (www.mypharmacy.sg), an online one-stop personalised weight management and fitness training portal (www.myhealth.sg, now defunct), and an award-winning Interactive Patient Guide (IPG) for common medical procedures. In January 2008, we were the first hospital to introduce a revolutionary e-financial counselling system to generate estimated bill sizes, helping our patients to make informed decisions about their ward class.
As part of our move to digitize medical records, our Radiology department went filmless on 1 September 2008 with the implementation of the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) . PACS is a system capable of capturing, communicating, displaying and storing images. Our patients benefit from cost and time-savings.
CGH A&E was the first emergency department in the world to use the Mobile Clinical Assistant (MCA) in 2007. MCA is a wireless and highly portable technology that enables doctors and nurses to better care for their patients and more effectively manage the hectic workflow in the fast-paced A&E. In October 2008, all the wards and A&E were equipped with 156 Bedside Medical Workstations (BMWs) for doctors to access electronic patients records and X-ray images, check test results and order more tests.
In building CGH during this decade we continue to support our staff and make CGH a desirable workplace. We implemented family friendly practices and staff healthy lifestyle programmes, for which we were awarded numerous national awards. CGH was also the first hospital to set up a Peer Support Programme in 2003 to provide crucial crisis counselling to staff who have been exposed to work-related critical incidents or crises.
Whilst developing our quality acute care services, we are also concerned about the health of our patients after they are discharged from the hospital and about the health of the community. As part of integrated health care, a number of community healthcare programmes were launched, including CHAMPS (Community Health Ambassador Programme for Seniors) in 2005 and HOPES (Community Health Screening Programme) in 2009.
Mental health awareness and support was boosted with the implementation of several mental health programmes. The Community Psycho-geriatric Programme (CPGP) was introduced in 2007 to alleviate mental health problems in the elderly. We also launched the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Singapore programme in 2008 to raise mental health awareness and literacy in Singapore. Through these programmes, we continue to work closely with community partners to reach out and care for the residents in the east of Singapore.
We scored another first in integrated care with community partners when we became the first acute-care hospital to be paired with a community hospital. In April 2005, St Andrew’s Community Hospital (SACH) moved next door to CGH. Connected by a sheltered link bridge, this arrangement facilitates better stepdown care for patients.
CGH also set up the ACTION (Aged Care Transition) Team in 2008 to help patients and their family with discharge planning and ease the transition from hospital to home. This helps to improve the quality of life for patients after discharge and to reduce their re-admission to the hospital and admission to nursing homes.
The plight of needy patients is never far from our mind. In 2002, CGH set up the Patient Welfare Charity—HomeCare Assist to help needy ill or bedridden patients after discharge from the hospital.
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2 Simei Street 3,
(65) 6788 8833
(65) 6788 0933
Changi General Hospital (CGH)