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SGH & Medical Services


Before an Outpatient Department was opened in 1931, there was no public health facility for the sick to seek medical treatment. In 1948, a centralised facility was established for the public <don't understand the diff between this and the 1931 one?> By 1963, at least 1,000 patients passed through the Department's doors daily, with the figure spiking to 2,000-3,000 within a year. <this para is from the earlier but seems to contradict the following para -- nos per day, etc>

While the Outpatient Department opened in 1931, it was only in 1948 that a centralised facility was set up to deal with members of the public who walked in with injuries. By 1963, at least 1000 patients a day passed through its doors. In just a year, this number spiralled to anywhere between 2-3000 patients a day! It also meant sometimes a six-hour wait to see a doctor.

From offering a modest Casualty and Outpatient service in 1948, the department evolved into the A&E in 1974 and has since taken significant strides to sharpen its response and capabilities, including specialisation and training to be fully equipped to deal with chemical attacks, SARS as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 1950s, outpatient clinics for cardiac, endocrine, stroke, respiratory, haematology and surgical needs recorded about 2,400 cases daily. This provided feedback, if not some direction, for projecting capacity and planning. As implied, 'outpatients' could be sufficiently treated with medicines and monitored for progress without being admitted to a ward. By the 1960s, these clinics had become victims of their success, and their services were devolved to neighbourhood government dispensaries. The hospital began to focus only on emergencies.

Healthcare services had been free, but rising demand for specialised services and rising costs required the public to share the costs. In 1969, ward charges were introduced -- Singapore patients paid a C class ward rate of $1 per day but other services were free. In 1968, manufacturing workers' received an average monthly wage of $241, and they could buy a meal for a few cents. By 1975, a C class ward stay cost $4 a day (it was $60 and $30 for A and B class wards, respectively).


Physiotherapists occupied three floors of the Stanley Block, while occupational therapists worked in the basement of the Norris Block. Medical Social Workers, then known as almoners, were in Bowyer and Norris Blocks.

These Allied Health Departments provided complementary support services for hospital patients. Almoners pioneered medical social services in Singapore, facilitating psychological and emotional support for the sick and needy as well. The late S.R. Nathan, the sixth President of Singapore, worked as an almoner after graduating in social studies in 1954.

In the 1970s, both Stanley and Norris blocks were demolished to make way for the current Block 8, National Cancer and Dental Centres, respectively.


The 1950s was a time of rapid expansion with the availability of skilled staff and facilities. General surgery evolved to become a distinct speciality in its own right. Other surgical specialties such as Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), Orthopaedic Surgery, Paediatric Surgery and Plastic Surgery emerged to stand on their own.

Professor Yeoh Ghim Seng (b.1918 - d.1993), who headed the surgical unit A from 1955-1962, distinguished his career by performing the first closed heart surgery in 1959. In 1965, the first open-heart surgery using the heart-lung machine for the cardiopulmonary bypass was performed.

"Patients were literally scared to death whenever they had to go to the hospital. It was considered a one-way street to the mortuary. This was especially so with surgical patients. It was quite an achievement to make patients agree to a major operation."

Professor Yeoh Ghim Seng (b. 1918 - d.1993)
First Local Chair of Professor of Surgery (1956 - 1962)

Today, SGH performs close to 100,000 surgeries in a year, attracting even regional and international patients.