Happenings, News

The early beginnings of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital

Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital at Serangoon Road

In 1911, Bishop William Oldham visited the “Cantonese Free Hospital”, now known as Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, which was founded in 1910. Oldham was impressed by the efforts of the community to help its less fortunate members – poor people connected with three prefectures of Guangdong Province: Kwong-chau, Wai-chau and Shiu-heng, hence Kwong Wai Shiu, so renamed in 1973. Did Oldham perhaps envision a Methodist equivalent in the future?

KWONG WAI SHIU HOSPITAL now accepts people of all races at very modest cost. Three founding leaders were Wong Ah Fook, Leong Man San and Yow Ngan Pan and are featured in this account.

I paid a recent visit to the Cantonese Free Hospital and am in much admiration of the philanthropy and executive capacity of our Cantonese friends.

The old Tan Tock Seng Hospital has been handed over by the Government to a Cantonese Committee of forty-three members, of whom the leaders are Messrs Wong Ah Fook, Leong Man San, Yow Ngan Pan, Tham Heng Wan, Choo Sze Meng, Li Sing Nam and Lam Yu Chi.

These gentlemen have secured by public subscription over $140,000 and have put the donated buildings into fine shape, erected new covered ways, etc, and have opened a free hospital for the use of their poorer countrymen and women.

The patients have the choice of Chinese medical treatment by skilled Chinese doctors from Canton or of Western medicine administered by a graduate of our local Medical College. Of the 180 patients or thereabouts, one-third elect Western medical treatment, and the proportion steadily grows. It would be interesting to compare the results of the different methods when sufficient data accumulate.

The exquisite cleanliness of the wards and the cheerful faces of the patients speak well for the management. Of course these poor people are more happy with Chinese-speaking attendants and doctors than they could be with any others.

The whole expense, which runs to the neighbourhood of $3,500 a month, is cheerfully met by the Cantonese community, who, in this regard, are an example to all Singapore. I trust that their example may become contagious and that the other sections of the population may come to care each for its own people.

The Government physicians frequently inspect this hospital and this ought to re-assure the public. Presumably the Government will encourage and foster such movements, as they will both save the public purse and stimulate that larger civic life which is impossible when too great paternalism orders all life.

The whole enterprise reflects the greatest credit on the Cantonese leaders and proves our Chinese friends entirely competent to organise and ably conduct such matters as they choose to undertake.’ – MM, August 1911, p. 84.

FOOTNOTE: The current CEO of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital is Dr Lee Li Eng, a Methodist leader.

Wong Ah Fook, Leong Man San and Yow Ngan Pan (clockwise, from top to bottom), the three founding leaders of the “Cantonese Free Hospital”, now known as Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital at Serangoon Road. – Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital pictures.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.