From humble beginnings as a wooden shed, to the formation of hospitals and specialty centres, our healthcare system has grown through time and tide to best serve the needs of our nation with advanced care and services we now offer.
Before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, the few native communities living here sought treatment from traditional Chinese doctors, Malay healers and Indian Ayurvedic physicians. With the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, western medical practices were introduced to our shores, primarily attending to the British troops and the European community. It eventually evolved to become an essential part of Singapore’s society.
The main block and entrance of the old wing of the former KK Hospital, and the current KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
One of SGH’s past locations was at Kandang Kerbau, at the junction of Bukit Timah and Serangoon Roads in 1858. Before the general hospital moved to Kandang Kerbau, public hospitals did not serve local female patients. This facility admitted its first patients for childbirth and gynaecological conditions in 1865.
At that time, venereal diseases were a key public healthcare concern in Singapore. The British colonial government introduced laws on vaccination, quarantine and registration of birth and deaths, marking the first steps towards prevention and control of infectious diseases. A cholera outbreak in 1873 forced the general hospital to move to the Sepoy Lines. In 1884, the facility at Kandang Kerbau became an establishment that specialised in the treatment of women with venereal diseases.
In the 1880s, women gave birth at home, attended to mostly by untrained midwives, relatives or friends. The knowledge regarding maternal or infant care was lacking. As such, infant mortality rates was high well into the 1920s. The colonial government introduced initiatives to reduce the mortality rate through legislation, subsidies, education and formal training of midwives.
Over time, more women chose to deliver their babies in hospitals rather than at home. To meet this demand, the hospital at Kandang Kerbau was converted into a dedicated maternity hospital in 1924. It was known as the Free Maternity Hospital, which eventually came to be known as Kandang Kerbau Hospital. In 1952, the School of Midwifery was set up to train midwives.
In 1966, the number of deliveries continued to rise, reaching a record high of 39,835. This won KK Hospital a place in the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest number of births in a single maternity facility in that year – a record it held for ten years. More than 85% of all the births took place in KK, where over 100 babies were delivered daily.
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