By Moo Yubin
The LKCMedicine Headquarters Building at 11 Mandalay is historically linked to the development of medical education in Singapore and the evolution of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Originally known as the Straits Settlements Mandalay Road Hostel, it was built in 1924 to house senior medical students from Singapore’s first medical school, and to facilitate their access to TTSH, the school’s primary clinical training hospital. The hostel was part of the Legislative Council’s efforts to enhance the medical school after a warning from the British General Medical Council about falling educational standards.
During the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945 the medical school was closed and the Mandalay Road Hostel was used for TTSH nursing staff. The building reverted to a medical student hostel in 1947 after the school was re-opened, and in 1949, came under the University of Malaya when the school became the University’s Faculty of Medicine. The students at the hostel during this period were primarily from Malaya, and were bussed daily to their classes and to hospitals outside TTSH. In 1955, the University of Malaya agreed to a request from the Director of Medical Services to transfer the hostel to TTSH for conversion to nurses’ quarters. This was necessary to support TTSH’s establishment as a tuberculosis hospital and its plans to almost double its 550-bed capacity. Over the next 30 years, the Nurses’ Hostel at Mandalay Road was home to a generation of TTSH nurses, many of whom formed lasting friendships. The hostel, with its adjacent open spaces and multi-functional Annex, was also a popular site for staff recreational activities.
The period in which the Mandalay Road building served as a Nurses’ Hostel also marked a defining phase in TTSH’s development. The hospital resumed clinical teaching in the 1960s, added specialties and gained recognition for its post graduate specialist training and research, eventually becoming a regional general hospital in 1975. To better meet the increase in patient load and complexity of healthcare demands, TTSH was established as a restructured hospital in 1992, with plans for a new 15-storey building.
To facilitate TTSH’s transition to its new headquarters, the Nurses’ Hostel at Mandalay was closed and converted to an interim Nursing Administration and Human Resource Office from 1995- 1999. Thereafter, the building remained largely unutilized, except for recreational activities held on the nearby lawns and sports court.
With the identification of 11 Mandalay as the site for LKCMedicine’s Novena Campus, the conservation building that has been a part of local medical training and services since the 1920s, will again witness the next stage of growth and transformation of medicine and healthcare in Singapore.