The Brothers of Mercy of Mary Help of Christians recently celebrated their 160 years of its founding by their Blessed Brother Peter Friedhofen in 1850.
Brother Peter of Germany had a love for looking after the sick and suffering and had dedicated his life to caring for them. In 1849 with episcopal approval he started a new order and built his convent at Weitersburg Germany. Its mission statement was “To care for the sick as well as possible in every aspect”.
The order is now present in several countries around the world including Ipoh Malaysia where they were instrumental in the setting up of Hospital Fatimah.
The anniversary was celebrated with a mass held at the Hospital Fatimah Chapel and was attended by fellow Brothers from Germany and Singapore together with staff and guests.
The Brothers of Mercy are a nursing order. Due to the poor health conditions in Malaya then Arch Bishop Olcomendy of Singapore in 1953 invited the order to come to Ipoh to assist with the health situation.
Their original clinic took up part of the Kg Simee Old Folks Home which then was run by Father Khaw as part of the Catholic Welfare Services and offered polyclinic services.
The Brothers also operated a Mobile Dispensary service with scheduled visits at assigned clinics such as the Chinese temple at Gopeng. Other assigned clinics were at Bota Kanan, Kampar, Batu Gajah and up north at Province Wellesley. They also provided their services to the Orang Asli.
After independence in 1957 and the gradual improvement of medical services by the federal government the work of the Brothers of Mercy gradually became redundant.
It was then that the idea of upgrading to a hospital was mooted.
Additionally several of the town’s boys joined their novitiate and were undergoing training in Germany. Upon completing their training they would be able to man the hospital work.
One of those early trainees is Brother Patrick who went on to become a doctor and is currently the resident Dermatologist with the hospital.
The ground breaking for the Hospital was held in 1969 and their first patient was admitted in 1974. The name selected for the hospital was ‘Fatimah’ after the saint of ‘Our Lady of Fatimah’ in Portugal.
Due to the shortage of nurses initially a batch of German Sisters, the Franciscan Sisters of Solzkotten were brought in for a limited stay. The German Sisters were subsequently replaced in 1983 by the Franciscan Nuns formerly from Our Lady’s Hospital at Chung Thye Phin Road.
The hospital has grown from strength to strength and is now a 223-bed establishment, has been quality certified and is currently adding an Oncology Centre to its list of services.
What started as an invitation to care for the sick and suffering has blossomed into a full service hospital.
It appears that the mission statement by Brother of Mercy Founder, Brother Peter Friedhofen “To care for the sick as well as possible in every aspect” is still relevant today even though it was first spoken 160 years ago.