By James Gough
The Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital which started 107 years ago has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a 6-bedded maternity home in a wooden house located at Chamberlain Road (now Jalan C.M. Yussuf) in 1904. It then shifted to a 3-storey hospital in 1938, at its current location in Jalan Raja Permaisuri Bainun (formerly Kampar Road). In 1968, it became a multi-disciplinary hospital and in 2003, changed its name to Perak Community Specialist Hospital (“PCSH”).
Affordable Quality Healthcare
PCSH has changed and evolved its services through the years. However, there is one aspect of its original charter that has remained constant and that is “to provide affordable quality healthcare to the Perak community”.
The origin of PCSH is linked to the discovery of tin in the Kinta Valley in 1879, which resulted in the population of Kinta District growing tenfold from 5,500 to 60,000 by 1889. Ipoh was the largest settlement in Kinta and by 1893 was a town with road and rail links.
The authorities had built hospitals at Ipoh, Batu Gajah and Gopeng, with beriberi, dysentery and fever then being the common diseases. However, the immigrant Chinese mining community’s proclivity for larger families created a demand for maternity services such as delivery of babies, particularly for the poor amongst them.
Thus in 1904 the Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital was established under the guidance by the then Protector of Chinese for Perak – Mr William Cowan, the District Surgeon – Dr. R.M. Connolly, and Community Leaders – Mr Foo Choo Choon and Mr Leong Fee.
The Chamberlain Road site for the original maternity home was donated by Mr Cheah Cheang Lim, J.P., a nephew of Mr Foo. Funding was entirely by public donations.
In 1923, the responsibility for running the hospital was taken up by the Perak Chinese Maternity Association, newly formed as a charitable association “to provide free and good services to the working class and the poor”, and one of its main functions then was to provide free maternity services and train midwives.
The training of midwives was an important function for the hospital. Due to the economic progress from the growth of the tin and rubber industries, rural communities began sprouting up around the state and a baby boom soon followed.
The limited number of qualified doctors made the role of the trained midwives critical in reaching out to the remote rural communities to provide safe delivery of babies and care to their mothers.
In 1937, the hospital’s Medical Superintendent, Dato’ Dr. Khong Kam Tak, with support from the public and NGOs, raised $179,000 to build the main hospital building at its current site. This was officially opened in 1939 by the then High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States, Sir Thomas S.W. Thomas, G.C.M, O.B.E.
At its peak, the hospital delivered more than 3,300 babies annually. However as healthcare services in the state later improved, the hospital experienced reduced demand for maternity services and the training of midwives was discontinued in 1968. During all those years, the hospital had no resident doctors, but was run by a Matron with midwives, assisted by a panel of local volunteer doctors.
PCSH, as a non for-profit institution, has been supported by charitable contributions from the community, philanthropists and its leaders. Its past Presidents have included Mr. Leong Sin Nam, Foo Choong Yit, Dato’ Seri Lau Pak Khuan, Dato’ Peh Seng Koon, Dato’ Chong Wai Weng, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Lee Loy Seng and Dato’ Chin Pek Soo.
Over the next 40 years, the hospital gradually evolved from providing only maternity services to becoming a multi-disciplinary specialist hospital and this led to periodical upgrading and expansion of its facilities.
In 1987, an annexe building was constructed and a full scale X-ray department was set up. Its Haemodialysis Centre with 30 dialysis machines capable of servicing 1,000 patient sessions per month, was officially opened in 1994, and is managed by a full-time nephrologist and a qualified team. In 1995 the hospital set up an intensive care unit and recruited its first full-time resident consultant.
It was one of three hospitals to achieve ISO 9001/2001 Quality Management System Certification in 2003. That same year, it changed its name to Perak Community Specialist Hospital reflecting its evolution to a multidisciplinary hospital.
The hospital now offers several specialist services, including Orthopaedics, General Surgery, Cardiology, Urology, Paediatrics and Ear, Nose and Throat. It acquired the first Lithoptripter machine in Perak to remove kidney stones non-invasively through shock-wave therapy.
According to Rajindar Singh, the hospital’s CEO, “upgrading work is still going on but on a prioritized basis”. A new liquefied oxygen system was recently installed to provide clean and quality oxygen for patients, with the old system being used as a backup.
The family of the late Dato’ K.K. Lim recently donated medical equipment, worth some RM300K, to help boost the level of patient care at the hospital.
Other new equipment ordered includes state-of-the-art endoscopy equipment costing RM300K and an anaesthesiologist work station for the operation theatre costing RM400K. The facility upgrades include their recently refurbished Ward 2 while renovations of the paediatric ward and maternity ward rooms are on-going.
“Our upgrades also include service process upgrades such as customer service and admission and discharge programmes,” added Rajindar. “Of our 110 nurses, some 25% have gone for skill upgrading programmes. Human equity is an important asset to a hospital”.
Maintaining the Mission
Rajindar reiterated the hospital’s mission “to provide affordable health care to the Perak community”.
“Our room rates which start as low as RM35 per night are reasonable. Our patient breakdown is 10% rich and 20% well to do. The rest of our patients pay their bill by cash with most of them not owning a medical card”.
“Overall our rates are closer to General Hospital’s rates. Hence we have become a general hospital for the community, for those who would like to have specialist medical services but cannot afford private hospital rates.”
One of PCSH’s attractiveness is its ability to provide a fixed-price quotation to patients for standard treatments. For example, providing a quote for a total knee replacement at RM16K all-in. Once they provide the quotation, they stick to it. “For a lot of our patients, a firm quotation is a point of comfort, a sort of budget which they will work towards and not have to worry about cost overruns,” explained Rajindar, who has a business management background and worked with a German medical company for 25 years.
Hospital CSR Unchanged
PCSH carries its share of social responsibility, providing free medical services to the aged, orphans and deserving charity cases. Over three months of this year, it held medical camps, providing free consultation and treatment to 1,600 patients from low-income groups and Orang Asli communities.
The hospital is still managed by the Perak Chinese Maternity Association, whose current President is Dato’ Lee Hau Hian, and its directors include Dato’ Lim Si Boon and the current Medical Superintendent, Dato’ Dr Y.C. Lee of Lee Eye Centre.
Apparently the original good intention of the hospital “to provide affordable quality healthcare,” despite the current challenging environment of rising medical costs, is still being maintained. Now isn’t that a warming thought!