Singapore General Hospital #SingaporesFirst
📷: The SGH’s Bowyer Block opened in 1926.
In the early decades of Singapore’s colonial years, the only means of healthcare for non-European communities were traditional medicines as well as home remedies. Western medical practices arrived in Singapore around 1819 but the doctors attended only to the European community and their troops. In 1821, #SingaporesFirst general hospital was built in the form of a wooden shed in a British military camp in the vicinity of Bras Basah Road and Stamford Road, serving only European soldiers, sepoys (Indian soldiers), the seafaring population and the colonial government. Over the years, the general hospital went through several relocations, rebuilding and renaming, until it was set up at Sepoy Lines in Outram in 1882, where barracks for the sepoys used to be located. The Outram Road area turned out to be an excellent one for a general hospital, given its central location and elevated land with good drainage and water supply.
Eventually, a bigger general hospital was constructed at the same site and on 29 March 1926, it was officially named the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), opened by Sir Lawrence Nunns Guillemard, then Governor of the Straits Settlements. The SGH broke away completely from caring for only seamen, soldiers, Europeans and government officials, to provide modern medical care to the local people, regardless of race or social background. For the first time in Singapore’s history, our local people had access to government-run health facilities.
Boasting 800 beds across the Bowyer, Stanley and Norris Blocks, the SGH housed male, female and children’s wards as well as operating theatres, a laboratory, an outpatient block and living quarters for nurses. It was a landmark in the medical history of Singapore, and the only hospital then that had “Singapore” in its name which affirmed its status as the country’s premier hospital.
Singapore’s Chinese inhabitants started to call it 施排埔 – a “See Pai Poh” (in the Hokkien dialect) or “Sei Pai Por” (in the Cantonese dialect) – a name that is still commonly used to refer to the SGH today. 施 meaning charity or free; 排 meaning to queue; and埔 on a hill top: SGH was the place on a hill where everyone could go to seek medical care.
Today, SGH remains the largest hospital in Singapore with nearly 1,800 beds and over 10,000 healthcare workers providing care for more than 1 million patients annually. It is also a teaching hospital and a nodal point for clinical research. Going forward, its 43-hectare site will see an upgrade to support its continued endeavour to be Singapore’s largest healthcare hub to meet the nation’s future healthcare needs.
#Heritage #Singapore #Hospital #Healthcare #HealthierSG