Kandang Kerbau Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH)


Kandang Kerbau Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a.k.a KK Women's and Children's Hospital, established in 1924, is the largest medical facility in Singapore in the specialised areas of obstetrics and gynaecology, neonatalogy and paediatrics. It is the only integrated women's and children's hospital in Singapore.

KKH's beginnings can be traced back to 1924 when a free maternity clinic from Victoria Street moved into a pre-existing general hospital in Kandang Kerbau. This general hospital on Kampong Java Road was established in 1858 as a treatment centre for veneral diseases. Prostitutes made up the bulk of people seeking medical services here. European patients who sought medical attention at the hospital were attended to in a separate section; the hospital had two different sections; one for the Europeans, called the "Seaman's Hospital", and the other for the locals, called the "Police Hospital". In 1905, the hospital started to house female lepers when female lepers and poor children were transferred from the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

This general hospital was named as the Kandang Kerbau Hospital because of its location. A "buffalo pen", or Kandang Kerbau as it is known in Malay, of the colonial Department of Transport was once located here. The Hokkiens and Teochews referred to the hospital as Tek kah or "foot of the small bamboos", as bamboos grew on the hillocks below which KK Hospital was located. With the maternity clinic's move to the hospital on 1 October 1924, the hospital transformed into a pauper's hospital for poor women and children. Consisting of 30 beds and 12 children's cots, the hospital came to be officially called the Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital. It was also simply known as KK Hospital (KKH). Five babies were born here on the very first day it opened; three Malays, one Japanese and one Chinese. By the end of its first year of operation, the hospital had taken care of 688 deliveries. During this period, three other hospitals were also involved in deliveries; the Singapore General Hospital, the Cantonese Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and the St. Andrew's Mission Hospital. But many babies were still delivered at home, sometimes by untrained midwives. KK Hospital was therefore a welcome service for the actively reproducing country. This free maternity hospital was headed by Singapore's first professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, Professor J. S. English.

When World War II broke out in 1942, the hospital equipped with 500 beds, was converted into an emergency general hospital to treat war casualties. After the Japanese occupied Singapore, the hospital was named Chuo Byoin, meaning "Central Hospital". The hospital became a general hospital during the Japanese occupation to treat Japanese civilians, soldiers and the locals. While the hospital was then headed by a Japanese as the Medical Superintendent, Benjamin Henry Sheares (Dr), the second President of Singapore, served as the Deputy Medical Superintendent. After the war, from 1 July 1946 onwards, KKH reverted to being a maternity hospital. With structural changes in the health sector after the war, gynaecological and obstetric services were centralised at KKH and the hospital became the main maternity hospital in Singapore serving all classes of Singaporeans.

The hospital became very popular over the years. In the 1950s, the hospital recorded an average of 100 deliveries a day. It also offered home delivery and aftercare services from 1954, which it discontinued in 1968 due to declining birth rates in the late 1960s. In 1958, incubators were used for premature babies for the first time. The year 1966 was momentous for the hospital as it entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's busiest maternity hospital with 39,835 deliveries, a record it held until 1976. In the late 1960s, the hospital embarked on a family planning programme with the "Two Is Enough" policy. In 1970, the number of deliveries at the hospital fell below 30,000 and it further declined in the 1980s to below 20,000. In the early 1970s, a big load was taken off the hospital when Obstetrics & Gynaecology units were opened by the Alexandra Hospital and Toa Payoh Hospital. When Obstetrics & Gynaecology units were opened in National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital in 1986, the delivery load for KKH was further reduced.

Description & facilities
In the 1990s, KKH was restructured and the hospital was no longer a fully government-owned hospital. It came under the aegis of the Singapore Health Services (Singhealth), which is one of the two public healthcare clusters in Singapore. With the restructuring, and after 138 years of remaining at the same location, the hospital moved to a new premise at Kampong Java Park on Bukit Timah Road in 1997. It took on a new name, the "KK Women's and Children's Hospital". In 2003, the old hospital site was marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board.

KK Women's and Children's Hospital, an 8-storey state-of-art building, is spread over an area of 4.8 ha. The hospital has two six-storey towers built on a 4 storey podium block. Built at a total cost of S$393 million, it is equipped with 834 beds and employs more than 2000 staff. The building's unique architectural design won the hospital an award at the Singapore Architectural Design Awards in 1998.

The first research project that earned the hospital world-wide recognition was a surgery developed by Benjamin Sheares (Dr) in the 1960s where vaginas were created for baby girls who were born without it. In 1966, KKH won the Blair Bell Lectureship and the Edgar Gentilli Prize of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) for their work on trophoblastic disease. In 1982, the hospital began an IVF and Embryo Replacement Programme. In the following year, Singapore's and Southeast Asia's first test-tube baby was delivered at KKH by S. S. Ratnam (Dr) on 19 May 1983.

1924 : Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital (KKH) is established at Kampong Java Road.
1942 : Hospital is converted into an emergency general hospital during World War II. During Japanese Occupation, KKH is known as Chuo Byoin or "Central Hospital" and is used as a Civil General Hospital for Japanese civilians.
1961 : Singapore's first Siamese twins, Karen and Kate, are born at KKH.
1963 : KKH is accredited by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as a Post-Graduate Training Centre.
1966 : KKH enters the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's busiest maternity hospital and holds the title until 1976. Its record, "the most number of babies delivered in a single maternity facility" which is 39,835 in a year.
1982 : S. S. Ratnam (Dr) begins the In-Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Replacement Programme at KKH.
19 May 1983 : Southeast Asia's and Singapore's first test-tube baby is born at KKH delivered by S. S. Ratnam (Dr).
1 Apr 1990 : KKH is restructured, ending its 132-year old history as a government hospital. Obstetrics and Gynaecology services from Toa Payoh Hospital and Alexandra Hospital are transferred to KKH. It becomes a regional tertiary referral centre in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
1993 : KKH doctors perform the first intrauterine blood transfusion in Singapore. It was performed on an anaemic baby while it was still within its mother's womb.
1995 : The first Laparoscopic surgery in Tubal Reanastomosis in Singapore was performed to rejoin severed fallopian tubes.
1997 : Hospital moves to Bukit Timah Road. It is renamed as KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
1998 : Singapore's first and Asia's second hospital to offer Tension Free Vaginal Tape operation, to treat urinary incontinence.
1999 : First hospital in Southeast Asia to treat heavy menstruation using Microwave Endometrial Ablation (MEA) procedure. First hospital in Singapore to offer Patient Controlled Epidural Analgesia for women in labour.
2000 : The hospital's Gynaecological Cancer Centre gets accreditation as a training centre towards obtaining a Certificate or Diploma in Gynaecological Oncology of the Royal Australian-New Zealand College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (RANZCOG).
2001 : First hospital in Singapore to offer a permanent sterilisation approach without incisions, called Essure pbc.
2003 : The old Kandang Kerbau Hospital marks as a historical site by the National Heritage Board.

For more detailed timelines and milestones of KKH, please refer to:
Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore (pp. 37-42). Singapore: The Obstetrical & Gynaecology Society of Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS)

KK Women`s and Children`s Hospital :  150 years of caring (1858-2008). (2008). (pp. 128-134). Singapore :  KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
(Call no: RSING 362.19820095957 KK)

Variant Names
Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital, Kandang Kerbau Hospital.

KK Women's and Children's Hospital, 100 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 229899.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Kandang Kerbau Hospital. (1990). Kandang Kerbau Hospital 1924-1990 (pp. 16, 18-22, 24-25). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 362.19820095957 KAN)

Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003).
The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore (pp. 37-42, 48-78). Singapore: The Obstetrical & Gynaecology Society of Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS)

What's in store at the hospital. (January-March, 1995).  
KK Preview, 2.
(Call no.: RSING 362.19820095957 KKP)

Arshad, A. (2003, March 24).
Old KK Hospital now a historic site. The Straits Times.

Gwee, E. (2002, November 20). A long overdue book on the story of KKH. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 6.

KK in Cyberspace
. (1995, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 29.

Paediatric care to get a boost with new KK Hospital
. (1994, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 30.

Wee, L. (1996, September 29).
A new KK, but keep the little ones coming. The Sunday Plus, p. 1-2.

Yap, E. (1995, April 23).
KK Hospital branches out to cut delays. The Straits Times, p. 5.

Yeow, S. & Ming, J. (1997, March 9).
Bye bye, baby. The Straits Times, p. 8. 

Further Readings
KK Women`s and Children`s Hospital :  150 years of caring (1858-2008)
. (2008). Singapore :  KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
(Call no: RSING 362.19820095957 KK)

Lim, A. (1995, May 11). Night clinic at K K Hospital for working people's convenience.
The Straits Times, p. 24.

Lim, A. (1995, June 18).
Day-care clinic opens at KK Hospital. The Straits Times, p. 23.

Lim, A. (1995, December 16).
Friendly child wing for new KK hospital. The Straits Times, p. 30.

Loh, S. (1995, June 26).
Cover Story doctors have higher pass rates" and "Staff stay longer too". The Straits Times, Life!, p. 2.

The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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