Monday, 11 September 2017

Iconic Old Changi Hospital

Built in 1930's, together with an A/E opposite the road and several blocks of commando barracks cum Changi prison nearby, the iconic Old Changi Hospital (OCH) is situated at 24 Halton Road along with Changi Chalets. It has quite a long and rich history for being the former hospital of today's modern Changi General Hospital in Simei in 1997 and Toa Payoh Hospital equipped with world-class facilities.
View of Old Changi Hospital (OCH)
With its classical design, one can see that OCH is a typical replica of buildings built by British Colonial architects in the early 30's. So surprisingly is that OCH was not meant to be a hospital when it was first built (same for the A/E). The British was planning to have a heavily guarded military location in the east of Singapore. The site was strategically selected for it is high on top of a hill overlooking the sea surrounding most of the east side and the south side of the island. For about 10 years before the war, this classical 7-storey high building compound was used as military command quarters and barracks.
It was first commissioned and named RAF (Royal Air Force) hospital in 1935 to serve the Royal Engineers in Kitchener Barracks (a camp used to house British POWs with Fortress Units), the Royal Artillery in Robert Barracks (currently Changi Airbase) and the Gordon Highlanders (2nd Battalion) in Selarang Barrack (formerly Malayan General Hospital).
Blocks161 and 24 Old Changi Hospital
From February 1997 onwards, OCH was closed for its hospital operations were replaced by the new Changi General Hospital. It got isolated and left vacant there since then. According to some insider sources, the abandoned OCH will remain as it is and it opened for the 'public' during 2005 for the Army Camp or for the Officer Cadet School (OCS) Trainees.
The Old Changi Hospital itself had over 70 years of rich history when it survived from the dreadful World War II that took place from 1942 to 1945, witnessing the fall of Singapore and the little mistreats towards the prisoners of war (POW) that happened there.
An old logo of Changi Hospital of Block 24
Closeup of An Old logo
An old logo of Changi Hospital at Block 24 that reminds us of the past history of once a Military building.
Although Old Changi Hospital is a restricted access site, this has not stopped Singaporeans from trying to enter despite of being risk of getting caught by the authorities. A police signboard outside of the hospital warns that 20 persons have been arrested or investigated for trespassing into the area (see above pic). So...don't try to get yourself caught as there are many motion sensors installed at all buildings by SLA and the police and even in the bushes too, to detect the intruders' movements even in the faces that stored in surveillance cameras.
Weeds overgrown defunct stairs
I did see the video of the youths (they received stern warning from the security guard) trying to enter the premises in 2016 thru the old defunct stairs (see pic above) covered with overgrown vegetation from the locked fences where I took a photo earlier on 9th Sept 2017 conducted series guided tours by SLA and one of my nostalgia friends, Jerome Lim.
A Film 'Haunted Changi' movie (2010)
In the year 2010, a local horror film, Haunted Changi, even draws on popular belief in the hospital's "haunted-ness" for its story-line. In the movie, a group of Singaporean film makers get caught up in the spiritual happenings of Old Changi Hospital and wind up suffering unimaginable fates. Changi Hospital combined with Toa Payoh Hospital to form a new hospital in Simei named Changi General Hospital in 1997. The vacated site was used for filming local films and television dramas once they became available for short-term rental from the Singapore Land Authority.
Local dramas were filmed there, including Growing Up, Incredible Tales and Crime Hunters, for its rustic colonial architecture and eerie nature. In 2006, the Singapore Land Authority put up the site for commercial lease for a long term development of the site. The tender was won by Bestway Properties, which proposed to build a luxurious spa-resort by the first half of 2008. However, the project did not materialise and the site remained vacant. The three year leased expired in 2010, and was returned to the state.
 Me and Kamal took a shot b4 start the tour
Me & TREE Team before start the tour
At 10am In the morning, I was supposed to meet them at the entrance of the OCH, so I took a direct bus from Simei Mrt and it took me 15 mins to reach there and walking distance about 7 mins on the straight road path from Halton Road where the bus-stop (opp.Maranatha Bible Presbyterian Church) along Loyang Ave without any turning direction like Netheravon Road and Sealand Road (too troublesome).
In fact, my mum did mention to me that in the early 50s, she worked at the salon shophouse which was above the floor and below was motor workshop in the rows of 'kampong' shophouese near Changi Villages in the past. Local villagers could see the hill of Old Changi Hospital that was used to be Military Buildings.
One of my nostalgia friends from UK, his name is Stephen whose sister was born at Old Changi Hospital in 1962, stated as British on Crown Territory. He shared his fond memories in Sg. Here it goes...His father worked at RAF Changi FEAFOC (Far East Airforce Operational Command) as Air Traffic Controller from 1947 to 1977 when he retired. He and his family lived in Upper East Coast road in the house owned by Mr Kiong Chin Eng and at Maria Avenue on the Opera Estate in Siglap from 1960-1963. From 1969 to 1972, they lived at 60-4 Upavon Road at RAF Changi, then they moved to RAF Tengah and they lived at 49 Meteor Road. My friend was 3 months old at that time when his family first came to SG. At the age of 11, he and his family came back to the UK in 1971. My friend studied at RAF Primary School at Changi and Tengah. 
Note: "My friend will find the photo of his father of his time in Airforce and will post it here later. Akan Datang".
Some of the former staff who worked in operating theatre, accident and emergency in 1960s, like Mr Lim (one of the participants) who was a medic at the Changi Hospital. Most people still hold special memories of the place.
 Shona is seen interviewed with the TV crews
A TREE member, Shona Trench was born in Old Changi Hospital in 1961, was a baby no. 246 in the hospital ward. She is seen interviewed with a group of TV media whilst her husband, Robert shared his old photo with TREE member
 Shona interviewed with a media crew
OCH's Baby Shona no. 246
One of the TREE members, Shona Trench was born in OCH in 1961, baby no. 246 shared her fond memories of the hospital and her own family lived at SAF Seletar at that time. In 2010, Shona and her own family returned in S'pore and have been living here for 7 years. She is seen with TV crews among other participants together with her husband, Robert Trench. 
Participants at block 37
Seeing positive participants walked into the Old Changi Hospital with ease without having thought of being paranoia and yet seeing an old building in the sense of quiet and beautiful place to hear the story of deep historical of the colonial building from 1930s built by the British.
Station Quarters for sick patients at Block 37
Block 37 was put up as a station quarters for 'sick' or unwell patients in 1946.
The former hospital complex comprises the 3 buildings which are Block 37 with atop of the barrack or FEAF (Far East Airforce) Hill. The Block 37 was completed in 1935 after delay initiated in 1930 by the then Labour Government. Block 37 was never to be a fully operational hospital which was supposed to be marked as 'Hospital' before the war.
Blk 37 with X-Ray & dental room (background)
A Barrack Hill where the HQ Air-Command SEA being moved to, the hospital was also set up by RAF in 1947.
 A X-Ray and dental rooms on each side
Two operating theatres on one side
The former 'H' Block 24 together with Block 37 were serving as the main admin block and casualty entrance with two operating theatres at one side whilst the X-Ray on the other side and the dental room also at the same wing (pic above).
Operating theatre at A&E building
According to Mr Lim, a participant who was a medic at the hospital, said that there was an operating theatre here at A&E building (pic above)
Ambulances came up from Hendon Road to sending 'sick' patients to the lower block, the former 'H' block 24 for treatments.
To the Block 161
In 1962, the construction of the block 161 allowed the link connection between the two original blocks previously separated by a flight of 91 steps.
Linkway between Blocks 37 and 161
One of the fond memories by former patients was that they got to see the sea view from their wards.
A sea view from Block 161
Closeup of sea view from Block 161
The former patients from the wards, would sense of peaceful looking out the sea view were fondly remembered.
Linkway between two Blocks
The Linkway between Block 37 and 161 as seen above.
Another linkway which is out of bounds
There is another linkway to the other Block which is out of bounds.
2nd level of Block 37
Once the occupied wards in this wing
The wards at level 5 or 6 were used to be occupied with patients and the sounds of the babies could be heard and now it's empty wards that brings fond remembered by the former patients who were warded or worked in the theatre and hospital emergency rooms.
An air-conditioning cooling unit
An air-conditioning cooling unit outside the Block 161
Block 34 
Apart from Block 37 down the slope to Block 34. The former 'H' blocks 24 and Block 37 were built as part of Kitchener Barracks, the Changi Garrison. So... Block 24 (H Block) was one of the early blocks that completed to house the Royal Engineers in 1930s and served as barrack block and dinning room.
Many British POWs were sent to work on projects such as Burmese Railway by mid 1943, Kitchener and Roberts were be vacated and were taken over by Imperial Japanese Airforce with the construction of a landing strip at Changi.

A view from Block 24 towards Block 161
Block 161 was added in 1962
Block 161 is where the bulks of the wards were located in this 7-storey building when it was opened in 1962 ( my friend whose sister was born in 1962). 
To the top of Block 24 via link Bridge
The 3rd floor of Block 37 connected to the top floor of Block 24 via link bridge.
Link bridge between Blocks 161 & 24
The 2nd floor of Block 37 that connected the link bridge between Blocks 161 and 24.
Former Barrack Block 24
The former Barrack Block 24 which became a maternity block when Block 161 was added. The building is a kind of tropical barrack block design which has no aircon at that time. And it built with wide verandah and high ceiling and window for insulation and ventilation.
A Single room that once housed 40 soldiers
This room would have been a single room to accommodate 40 soldiers. This hospital's maternity wing which also brought more than 1000 babies of families of all services. It was retained as for military use for ANZUK Military Hospital when the British pulled out in 1971. In 1975 it was handled over to SAF and the locals or civilians were allowed to use the hospital for treatments instead of being transferred to the MOH (Ministry of Health). From the same year, MOH consolidated with 150 beds with about 36 Changi Chalet Hospital and it soon became Changi Hospital in July 1976 till it closed in 1997 when it was combined with Toa Payoh Hospital to form General Changi Hospital which opened in Simei in 1998.
 Many posters were pasted on the fence
Signage mounted on the gate
Well, these posters of state land and Live Detection of Intruder by CCTV pasted every nook and corner of the gate and even signage mounted on it. So...don't try sneak into the building without warning if captured on recording by motion sensors everywhere.
Ghost sighting is here
So...who see the ghost in broad daylight, the only lady ghost on the wall spotted by the participants. I thought the building is creepy one but it makes me feel peaceful setting around environment for healing recovery.
Morning Group@Block 37
The tour lasted for 2 hours and there will be another slot in the afternoon which was at1pm. My visit to Old Changi Hospital was part of SLA's state property part of series tours organised by Mr Jerome, is supported by SLA.

1 comment:

  1. I was sent to Changi Hospital in May 1967 from Labuan with a fractured foot, and stayed for about 2 weeks. And remember very clearly seeing an occasional submarine sailing by, I don't remember the ward number but reading that from ward 161 you had a nice view out to sea I just wondered if that was the ward I was in.
    Ian Langley