Old Changi Hospital

by Faizah Zakaria

There appears to have been a military medical presence at Changi ever since construction of the base began with the first medical officer arriving in 1928 to assist with anti-malarial drainage work.1 The hospital for the base was moved from Barracks Hill to Roberts Barracks in 1942 when Changi became the internment camp for POWs.2 After World War II, the Royal Air Force (RAF) took over the Japanese airfield and established the RAF Hospital in 1946.3 Handed over to Singapore, it became the civilian Changi Hospital in 1976.4 In 1997, Changi Hospital was moved with Toa Payoh Hospital to Simei to merge into a new institution, Changi General Hospital.5 The premises of the old Changi Hospital at Halton Road were thus vacated.

Early military medical presence
From the early stages of the construction of the artillery base, a medical officer was stationed at Changi.6 The officer, a Major Champney, arrived in 1928 and worked with the engineers on the site's drainage to prevent mosquito-borne malaria.A Royal Army Medical Corps centre for the base was referred to as a hospital both on the map and is referred to during the inquest into a sapper's death in 1930.8 From the 1930 and 1937 maps in the 1965 edition of Probert’s The History of Changi, the hospital was located at what is today Halton Road.9 However, these maps might only have been plans as work on the base was halted between 1929 and 1933, and accounts of Changi in the 1937 and 1938 The Royal Engineers Journal do not mention the construction of specific hospital facilities.10

After Singapore fell to the Japanese, the captured Allied troops were detained in Changi at the Changi military base. This caused a great strain on medical facilities in the small existing hospital on top of Barracks Hill, particularly with widespread dysentery occurring among prisoners. The hospital quickly moved to the nearby Roberts Barracks and remained there till 1944 when the last of the POWs were moved to Changi Prison to make way for a Japanese airfield.11

Post-war period
Because the Japanese had constructed an airfield in 1943 during the Occupation, the Royal Air Force took over Changi after the end of the war in 1946.12 The RAF Hospital Changi was functioning as early as October 1947, with a baby born there that month.13

After Singapore attained independence in 1965, the British Far East Command gradually began their withdrawal from the island, but their military presence in Singapore still continued14 with the formation of ANZUK – a tripartite coalition comprising the Commonwealth Forces of servicemen from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The hospital came under ANZUK’s control in 1971, and was consequently renamed, ANZUK Hospital. In 1975, when ANZUK was disbanded, the hospital became known as the United Kingdom (UK) Military Hospital.15

As the last of the Commonwealth troops withdrew from Singapore in December 1975, the hospital was handed over to the Singapore government and came under the auspices of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). It was renamed Singapore Armed Forces Hospital, and provided free medical care for SAF personnel and their immediate family members. The hospital gradually extended medical services to the public at the same rates as government hospitals. Services offered at the hospital included general medicine, general surgery and dental surgery.16

At the same time, a former British officer’s club on Halton Road was converted to Changi Chalet Hospital, and started accepting admissions in January 1975. It provided emergency services to holiday-makers or people with minor ailments as well as x-ray and laboratory services for inmates from Changi Prison, and the armed forces based in Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin.17

In 1976, the SAF Hospital was handed over to the Ministry of Health, which combined it with Changi Chalet Hospital. The former was known as the upper block and the latter, the lower block.18 Together, the two facilities made up the 180-bed Changi Hospital, under the governance of the Ministry of Health. However, the 100-metre distance between the two blocks – upper block at Halton Road and lower block at Turnhouse Road – posed some challenges in the administration of the hospital.19 It took hospital staff 10 minutes to walk from one block to another, including having to traverse a flight of steep steps up a hill slope. This led to the duplication of some important services in each block, which made it hard to run the hospital.20

In 1997, Changi Hospital was merged with Toa Payoh Hospital to form a new institution in Simei – Changi General Hospital.21 At the time of its closure, Changi Hospital had more than 150 staff members.22 Some continued their tenure at the new hospital, but primary administration was undertaken by Toa Payoh Hospital.23

Hospital closure
The vacated buildings at the site of the old Changi Hospital became sought-after set locations for filming local films and television dramas once they became available for short-term rental from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).24 Growing Up, Incredible Tales and Crime Hunters are some of the local dramas that were filmed against its backdrop.25


It appears that the closed Changi Hospital building quickly became a site for thrill seekers, as suggested in a story about spook-hunting which appeared in The Straits Times in 2000. A decade later in 2010, a horror movie titled Haunted Changi was made there.26

After nine years of renting it out, the government decided that the site needed to be put to more concrete use that complemented the rustic charm of the neighbourhood.27 In 2006, SLA put up the site for commercial lease as the first of four properties in the Changi precinct identified for development.28 Among the ideas mooted for the former hospital were to convert it into a school, hostel, chalet or arts venue.29 The tender was awarded to Premium Pacific, a subsidiary of Bestway Properties, which proposed to build a luxurious spa-resort by the first half of 2008. However, the project fell through, and the site was returned to the state in January 2010 after the three-year lease expired.30 The building remains vacant to this day.31



Author

Faizah bte Zakaria



References
1. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO); Craig, W. J. F. (1937, January). Anti-malaria drainage work in the new Changi cantonment. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, v. LXVIII, n. 1, pp. 15–26. Retrieved 2019, November 4 from Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps website: https://jramc.bmj.com/
2. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, p. 41. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO)
3. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, pp. 52–66. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 PRO)
4. Ex-RAF Hospital will be open to public soon. (1975, November 25). The Straits Times, p. 25; Changi hospital reopens tomorrow. (1976, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lim, A. (1997, February 22). Staff want to keep hospital's soul in move to new home. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 3; Use your regional hospital. (1998, March 29). The Sunday Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO)
7. Craig, W. J. F. (1937, January). Anti-malaria drainage work in the new Changi cantonment. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, v. LXVIII, n. 1, pp. 15–26. Retrieved 2019, November 4 from Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps website: https://jramc.bmj.com/
8. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, p. 25. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO); Tragic end to Sappers' night out. (1930, Jun 25). The Singapore Free Press, p. 405; Social and personal. (1929, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, pp. 25, 33. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO)
10.
J. F. F. (1937, September). Changi cantonment 1933–1937. The Royal Engineers Journal, pp. 355–362; Malan, L. N. (1938, June). Singapore: The founding of the new defences. The Royal Engineers Journal, pp. 213–235.
11. Probert, H. A. (1965). The history of Changi. Singapore, pp. 37, 41, 52. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO)
12. British PoWs have built biggest S.E.A.C. airbase: Changi will be ACSEA HQ. (1946, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Classified ads. (1947, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Campbell, W. (1971, October 30). Pull-outThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.  Name change. (1971, September 10). New Nation, p. 1; 
From ANZUK, UK military to plain old Changi. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. 
From ANZUK, UK Military to plain old Changi. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2; Lin, L. (2005, January 1). From healing space to filming placeThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. 
From ANZUK, UK Military to plain old Changi. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Changi General Hospital. (2013). Our history. Retrieved 2016, September 22 from Changi General Hospital website: https://www.cgh.com.sg/AboutUs/Pages/history.aspx
18. 
From ANZUK, UK Military to plain old Changi. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Changi General Hospital. (2013). Our history: Changi General Hospital, Singapore. Retrieved 2016, September 22 from Changi General Hospital website:
https://www.cgh.com.sg/AboutUs/Pages/history.aspxFarewell bird songs and barbeque smells. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. 
Farewell bird songs and barbeque smells. (1997, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Lin, L. (2005, January 1). 
From healing space to filming placeThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chia, A. (2016, August 4). Old Changi Hospital: Singapore’s first haunted hospital? Retrieved 2016, September 22 from
gov.sg website: https://www.gov.sg/news/content/old-changi-hospital-singapores-first-haunted-hospital
23. 
Changi patients move to new hospital in Simei. (1997, February 19). The Straits Times, p. 24; New Changi Hospital trains staff to delight its customers. (1997, December 11). The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lin, L. (2005, January 1). 
From healing space to filming placeThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25
A new life for former Changi hospital site. (2006, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Mulchand, A. (2000, October 26). Hantu, hantu. The Straits Times, Life!: This Weekend, pp. 6
7; Loh, G. (2010, September 3). Filming with ghosts. TODAY, p. T4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chia, A. (2016, August 4). Old Changi Hospital: Singapore’s first haunted hospital? Retrieved 2016, September 22 from gov.sg website: https://www.gov.sg/news/content/old-changi-hospital-singapores-first-haunted-hospital
27. 
A new life for former Changi hospital site. (2006, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Rajan, T. (2006, October 23). 
Bid to jazz up sleepy Changi: Four pre-war sites up for leaseThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. 
A new life for former Changi hospital site. (2006, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Project to develop former Changi Hospital into spa resort shelved. (2010, January 31). Channel NewsAsiaRetrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: 
http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Rajan, T. (2006, October 23). Bid to jazz up sleepy Changi: Four pre-war sites up for leaseThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Street Directory. (2016). 24 Halton Road – Changi Hospital (former). Retrieved 2016, September 22 from Streetdirectory.com:
http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/24-halton-road-506997/1_79885.html



The information in this article is valid as at November 2019 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.  

Subject
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings
Hospitals--Singapore
Public health
Historic buildings--Singapore
Health and medicine>>Health services
Politics and Government>>Health
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Public buildings