Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Unveiling of Changi General Hospital’s 88th Anniversary Community Mural on 26 August 2023.
Professor Ng Wai Hoe, CEO, Changi General Hospital
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to everyone! I am delighted to join you this morning to commemorate the 88th anniversary of Changi General Hospital. The Chinese consider 88 an auspicious figure, signifying good business, and more “huat”, or prosperity. But perhaps this is not an ideal KPI for a hospital in your line of business, it is better that people are healthy and well, rather than needing to visit you to give you more business! So let us apply this aspiration of “prospering”, or having more, into more years of healthy living. We can think of 88 as adding 4 more healthy and active years to our average life expectancy in Singapore! It was fascinating to learn from Prof Ng that CGH is a pioneer in neurosurgery. I am myself a grateful patient of Prof Ng – when I had my stroke seven years ago, he was my doctor and looked after me. So thank you, Prof Ng.
In CGH’s 88 years of rich history, the most striking element is the many name changes that CGH went through before it became known as CGH in 1998. Pre-independence, the hospital served British troops as the Royal Air Force Hospital. It was renamed the ANZUK (or Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom) Hospital, then the UK Military Hospital when ANZUK was disbanded. In 1975, the hospital was briefly renamed the Singapore Armed Forces Hospital, before being taken over by the Ministry of Health and combined with the nearby Changi Chalet Hospital to form the old Changi Hospital, also known as the hospital with panoramic seafront views! This remained for a while until 1997, when Changi Hospital merged with Toa Payoh Hospital to form the New Changi Hospital, subsequently renamed the Changi General Hospital, Singapore’s first regional hospital. Toa Payoh Hospital, for those of us who are old enough to remember, was a busy and renowned institution. It built up a reputation for clinical excellence and innovative care. And there is still a slice of Toa Payoh Hospital in CGH today – there are 16 pacu fish who are well over 30 years old, transported from the previous site into the koi pond here, and still thriving!
An innovative, pioneering spiritIt is remarkable that the institution built on its rich yet varied heritage, and grew stronger and more resilient with the various changes over the years. For example, Toa Payoh Hospital was known for its innovative culture and excellent clinical training and research. It pioneered “patient-centric nursing” back in the 1990s, bringing more human touch through team-based, small group nursing care. This innovative slant and pioneering spirit were carried through the merger, and remains at the heart of CGH’s culture. For example, CGH pioneered initiatives that formed the foundation of our current healthcare model. Under GP First, CGH partnered GPs in the region to encourage residents to visit their GPs for mild and moderate conditions instead of going straight to the hospital. This enabled the right-siting of care within the community. Similarly, CareLine provided round-the-clock health and telecare support to vulnerable seniors in need of urgent assistance. This has since been scaled up and supports 20,000 seniors nation-wide today. Most importantly, the Integrated Building run jointly by CGH and St Andrew’s Community Hospital is the first medical facility that provides a seamless transition from acute care to rehabilitation, and eventually back to home. This model has since been replicated across the other hospital clusters.
CGH’s commitment to innovation has endured over the years. Today, it is at the forefront of health technology and health research. The Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology, or CHART, is the healthcare sector lead for robotics research and innovation. It works closely with industry, academia, and research institutions to co-develop and testbed assistive technology and robotics solutions for the healthcare sector. Today, there are more than 80 robots deployed on the CGH campus to complement the care team in a wide range of areas. From delivering meals and medication, to conducting rehabilitation therapy and gait assessment, these robots are a regular fixture, and demonstrate the possibilities of a technology-enriched hospital. CGH has longstanding collaborations with SUTD too. Each brings its strengths to create mutually beneficial partnerships. SUTD students have done internships and projects with CGH, bringing a real-life slant to healthcare-related modules like data analytics and product design. These collaborations have resulted in prototypes and even commercialisation. For example, CGH and SUTD co-created a non-invasive warning sensor for the early detection of wound bleeding. This monitoring device was granted a patent in the US! This clinical-academic partnership between CGH and SUTD has been so fruitful that it has since been expanded to SingHealth cluster partners. There will be a focus on key healthcare trends and translational research, such as population and preventive health, as well as living laboratories.
Behind CGH’s innovative and pioneering work are of course the pioneers and innovators, who doggedly explore better ways to serve our residents. One such pioneer is Emeritus Consultant Prof Fock Kwong Ming, who helmed the Department of Medicine and Division of Gastroenterology, first at Toa Payoh Hospital, then at CGH. Prof Fock played a key role in setting up CGH, and later served as Chairman of the Medical Board from 1999 to 2007. Under his leadership, CGH introduced novel clinical care concepts such as ambulatory day surgery and gastrointestinal endoscopy. We also celebrate Madam Rasinah Bte Kahmin, Senior Support Service Assistant, who has served for more than 35 years, since the old Changi Hospital days. Back then, Mdm Rasinah had to do the job of porter, housekeeper and health attendant because the team was so small. Today, Mdm Rasinah and many other colleagues juggle multiple tasks with the help of technology. From Autonomous Guided Vehicles that deliver hot meals to patients, to the pneumatic tube system that sends patients’ specimens directly from the ward to the lab, Mdm Rasinah and her colleagues exemplify how we can adapt to the use of technology to do our work with greater efficiency and more heart! Prof Fock and Mdm Rasinah are just two examples of an exceptional team in CGH, who live by the ethos of providing the best possible care for its patients, through innovation and continuous improvement. So let us give a warm round of applause to Mdm Rasinah and Prof Fock.
Caring for the CommunityThis innovative spirit puts CGH in good stead to serve the community in the East. In the area of population health, CGH’s pioneering work on community partnerships, like GPFirst and CareLine, provide a strong foundation for today’s Healthier SG efforts. The East is home to early HDB towns like Bedok, so the proportion of seniors is higher, with resultant care needs also growing. CGH works closely with AIC, our Active Ageing Centres, as well as nursing homes like Peacehaven to care for our seniors within the community, including those who are frail and receiving end-of-life care. CGH has been a strong partner to the East Coast and Tampines GRC grassroots organisations, caring for our seniors through regular community talks, as well as community nursing care. Through programmes like the Eastern Community Health Outreach (ECHO), CGH has led efforts to engage the community on preventive healthcare, while strengthening social-health support for seniors. In March this year, I joined CGH at our appreciation event for our volunteers of the Neighbours for Active Living programme. It is heart-warming to see so many of our residents going the extra mile to care for their neighbours.
CGH also works closely with unique members within the community to pioneer new areas of clinical care. I earlier mentioned SUTD, with whom CGH has long and fruitful collaborations. Given its proximity to the airport, CGH established the Changi Aviation Medicine Centre in 2019 to offer customised care for pilots, cabin crew and air traffic control staff. CGH provides medical care, performance testing and aviation physiology training for our RSAF pilots and aircrew. CGH is also collaborating with Changi Airport Group to foster the health and wellbeing of the airport community, travellers and visitors of Changi Airport. Another area that CGH is developing expertise in, is correctional medicine, as it has taken over direct clinical care for inmates at Changi Prison. Correctional medicine is complex as it has a strong nexus with social support, and plays an important role in the rehabilitation process. This is an emerging field with no global benchmarks. CGH, together with the SingHealth polyclinics, has taken up the challenge of professionalizing the practice, so as to establish effective, multi-disciplinary care that extends to post-release support within the community. Earlier on, we heard from Prof Ng about the huge effort that all of you put in during COVID – it was one of the most stressful periods in our nation’s history. The CGH team has really excelled in what you have done, so again, thank you very much.
ConclusionThe CGH story is marked by a pioneering spirit, a constant pursuit of innovation, and strong partnerships with the community. It is the embodiment of this semangat yang baru – a continuous new spirit – that has driven Singapore’s success throughout our nationhood. Health and healthcare will become even more salient with Singapore’s ageing population. Yet so long as we keep up our drive to innovate, develop fresh solutions and build new partnerships, we can tackle new challenges in a holistic way, and empower every Singaporean, young and old, to achieve good health, live well, and age well.
Let me highly commend and express our deep appreciation to all CGH staff and partners, past and present, for your dedication and contributions over the years. Your professionalism and hard work make a difference to our lives! It is befitting that we are celebrating CGH’s auspicious 88th anniversary with Singapore’s largest photo-brick community mural, put together by CGH staff and community partners – another good example of this partnership. Let us continue to work together, to build on this remarkable legacy of trusted care, and energise everyone to stay healthy and active!
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