Mount Alvernia Hospital
Location: 820 Thomson Rd, 574623
The story of Mount Alvernia Hospital began with the arrival of three Sisters from the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) on 7 March 1949. They took over the tuberculosis wards at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which eventually became known as Mandalay Road Hospital.
Compelled by the needs they saw, the Sisters began to plan to build Singapore’s first Catholic hospital. Their years of Government salaries were used to seed the hospital building fund. They also started canvassing for donations all over the island of Singapore.
Land on Thomson Hill was bought in Oct 1956 and the construction of the hospital began in 1957 with the bulldozers moving in to clear the land. A J Braga who was then Minister of Health performed the ground breaking ceremony in 1959.
On 4 March 1961, Mount Alvernia Hospital was declared officially opened by Dato Lee Kong Chian, a great supporter of the Sisters and the Hospital. At the time of opening, the hospital had two operating theatres, an anaesthetics room, a recovery room, two labour wards, a nursery and a milk kitchen. There was also an X-ray department, physiotherapy department, an outpatient department and a dispensary.
Amazingly, the hospital was entirely staffed by the Sisters who were professionally trained as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, radiographers, laboratory technicians and other support services. The Sisters who ran the hospital received all their professional healthcare qualifications, religious training and hospital work attachments in England. What is more, before and after ward duties, the Sisters also doubled up as housekeepers, chefs and meal server.
In 1963, the first extension to MAH was completed. This provided improved outpatient facilities, a new delivery suite, a third labour ward, a specialised nursery for premature infants and two more operating theatres. In that same year, the first Resident Medical Officer (RMO) joined the team and a second RMO joined two years later.
In 1964, Sister Andreina Chin returned from training in England and Ireland to set up a department of pathology and a blood bank, making MAH the first hospital to have its own blood bank. And it was 90% self-sufficient. Patients’ relatives were encouraged to donate. With the seaport bustling with activities at that time, the Sisters also regularly went out to the anchored ships, visiting seamen and asking for donations.
During the early years after independence, the government’s focus for medical services was in primary healthcare to improve hygiene. Inpatient care was not high on the priorities list at that time. The Sisters saw the need to increase the Hospital’s inpatient capacity and support services. On July 1965, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew officially opened a new 5-storey wing, which brought the total number of beds to 127.
In 1969, another extension to provide care to chronically ill patients with another 22 beds was added. PM Lee returned to the hospital again in 1971 to open yet another wing adding another 72 beds. With this addition, the hospital now had 221 beds.
The new wing included a much needed Intensive Care Unit and a Paediatric Ward. It also housed a new outpatient department with consulting rooms and a minor theatre. The radiography department and pathology laboratory were expanded; a hydrotherapy pool was added to the physiotherapy department. For the convenience of patients and visitors, a new coffee house and a pharmacy was added.
In the 1980s, a decision was taken to accommodate some specialist clinics on campus. Work began in 1989 to build a new 7-storey medical centre. With doctors on-campus, increases in patient loads were expected. 1991 saw the construction of a new wing to accommodate medical and consulting suites. This wing would also include a suite of six operating theatres, a delivery suite of 10 rooms and 4-bedded first-stage room, a new physiotherapy and occupational therapy unit.
The Hospital further stepped up support for specialist practices by expanding clinical services from the late 1990s onwards, including X-ray, MRI, multi-slide CT-scan and digital mammography. Other developments were capabilities for laparoscope of Minimal Access Surgery. A Lithotripter Centre was opened and a bone densitometer was added to the facilities of Diagnostic Imaging Department. Clinical support staff received training and skills upgrading with attachments at leading international institutions.
Leadership in Training
In addition to training its own staff, the hospital also ran courses for doctors. MAH scored a first as a private healthcare initiative by beaming the procedure live from the operating theatre to be viewed in a separate training area. Foreign doctors were included in the training. The capability for laparoscopic surgery allowed MAH to include many more procedures in its Day Surgery services.
Pioneering Hospice Care
In 1986, MAH started accepting respite patients. This extension became known as Assisi Home. Two years later, it expanded into Hospice Care and in 1992; a decision was taken to establish hospice care as a dedicated mission, and thus, Assisi Hospice was set up and housed in a separate building from the hospital.
Establishing Clinical Pastoral Care
Ensuing from its Catholic faith, the Hospital recognized that besides excellence in care by physicians and nurses, a team of trained pastoral carers was required to support the patients’ spiritual and emotional needs, regardless of their religious, race, gender or ethnic background. The Clinical Pastoral Care Department was established by the FMDM Sisters in May 1986 to provide a holistic healing environment for patients and their family. Through the years countless lives have been touched.
In 1996, a new Medical Centre A was opened and started admitting specialist doctors with full admission rights.
Health screening centre was added to offer a one-stop for comprehensive and personalized services. The other one-stop service in the hospital is Day Surgery where the patient can register, checkout and collect medication in one place.
In 2004, allied health services were stepped up with the setting up of the Sports Medicine and Sports Surgery Centre functions in tandem with the rehabilitation centre.
The following year, MAH added 24-hour outpatient clinic services to fill the gap when extended hours in Singapore public sector polyclinics were discontinued.
In October 2010, the Alvernia Parentcraft Centre, a dedicated one-stop centre for ante-natal care, childbirth education and newborn baby care was opened. Equipped with cosy private consultation rooms and staffed by experienced lactation consultants and parentcraft counsellors, the Centre supports and equips parents preparing for childbirth with newborns as well as parents with newborns.
The hospital Chapel has been an integral part of the Hospital since it started in 1961. The Chapel is a life giving oasis, holding different meaning and value for each individual patient, staff or community, depending on the time and season they are in. It is a place of comfort, solace, joy and also a place of worship for a community that gathers every morning Mondays to Saturdays for the celebration of the Eucharist. The Chapel went through a renovation and reopened in 2013.
The new medical centre D was officially opened by Minister of Health, Mr. Gan Kim Yong on October 2014. This new 17,490sq m new facility not only provides additional medical suites, but also the much-needed expanded car park space for the hospital. It is now home to over 60 specialist clinics and cover 28 specialties.