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Pioneer Taiping Hospital still essential to Peninsular’s northern region

Our biggest dream would be to see more specialists here at Taiping Hospital, says its director

THE Heritage City of Taiping is known as the “City of the Firsts” and also serves as the pioneer in modern medicine in Malaysia.

The British made Taiping the administrative centre for the state of Perak in 1875. The town served this function until 1937 when the state capital was moved to Ipoh.

Rich in its natural and earth resources such as tin and rubber, it is only logical that Taiping was the country’s administration centre back in the 1880s.

Yeng Wah Hospital was the first established hospital in the Federated Malay States in 1880 to treat Chinese tin mining workers that suffered from various diseases and to protect their welfare. The labourers were charged an annual fee as low as 50 sen.

The hospital’s policies worked out efficiently for the first six months, but later incurred difficulties collecting the fees due to the workers’ low income. By the end of 1880, the state government took over the hospital management and shifted its location to Main Road (now Jalan Taming Sari) and later renamed it to Taiping General Hospital.

Former Taiping Hospital
Yeng Wah Hospital was established in 1880 to treat Chinese tin mining workers
(Pics source: Taiping Hospital)

Caters to Everyone

Its establishment was developed in parallel with the significant economic growth in the town. It was the first healthcare institution in Perak and functioned as the state hospital before World War II.

In 1896, an x-ray machine was installed in the hospital, the first in the country and also in the Far East. In 1906, the hospital opened a dispensary to cater to outpatients, especially from rural areas.

It was said that a lot of the government’s expenses were directed towards the hospital and it was a model which was later followed in many other towns.

It is important to realise the importance of the model which the Taiping Hospital was initiated upon. If not, hospital care would have fallen onto individuals or communities to provide.

The British would also have catered to themselves only, since it was uncertain whether the locals would accept Western medicine. The Chinese would have continued to set up their own hospitals. Plantations and mines would have been left to cater to the needs of their workers. In many countries, healthcare is in fact left to private initiative.

In contrast, Taiping Hospital offers medical care to anyone who walks through its doors, then and now.

Role During Covid-19

Taiping Hospital became the last line of defence for northern Perak during the worst of the pandemic.

It became the referral centre for all Covid-19 positive patients from the northern cluster, with a population of more than 800,000, work- ing together with Selama Hospital, Grik Hospital, Parit Buntar Hospital and Kuala Kangsar Hospital.

Taiping Hospital provided daily physicians to Kuala Kangsar Hospital to divert non-Covid-19 cases, besides providing expertise to help containment and isolation strategies for Kamunting Detention Centre (Kemta) and Taiping Prison.

In addition, Taiping Hospital provided staff and healthcare to Kemta to cater to staff and prisoners positive for Covid, and provided staff to Sabah when the state was at its peak of infection.

Taiping Hospital also provided staff to Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centre (PKRC) at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang during the peak of the Delta wave.

Since it is strategically located 80km to the north of Ipoh, 85km to the south of Penang and 8km away from the Changkat Jering exit of the PLUS highway, Taiping Hospital became the central storage for the Covid-19 vaccines for Perak Utara due to the super cold refrigerator requirements.

It also transformed into a training centre to teach staff from hospitals and government health clinics on how to manage Covid- 19 patients.

Over the period, it became the vaccination centre for the high- est-risk patients, allowing close observations post-vaccination. Taiping Hospital also conducted its outreach initiative and provided Covid-19 vaccinations to dialysis centres and nursing homes, while it continued to provide in-patient treatment to non-Covid-19 patients, without interruptions.

Indirectly, Taiping Hospital became the hope for the local population by managing cases in an orderly manner to avoid public panic and the spread of misinformation.

More Sub-specialties, Medical Disciplines

Taiping Hospital director Dr Narimah Yusof said she hopes to see more sub-specialties and medical disciplines at the institution.

“We are the lead hospital for Hospital Kluster Perak Utara, comprising four more hospitals around the northern side of Perak which are Kuala Kangsar Hospital, Parit Buntar Hospital, Gerik Hospital and Selama Hospital.

“Hence, it would be our biggest dream to see more specialists be here at Taiping Hospital, so we can provide the best care, treatment and services for the community,” she said.

Dr Narimah said to become a lead hospital, she aims to ensure the facility, equipment and infrastructure are upgraded.

“Our goal is to become a better healthcare facility, every day. Progressing forward is essential for the community in the northern Perak region,” she added.

Taiping Hospital Now

Taiping General Hospital

From a mere small hospital that caters to Chinese “coolies”, Taiping Hospital is now equipped with 687 beds and 34 medical specialties serving Perak and the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia, each specialty catering to a different aspect of a patient’s needs.

As of 2017, it provided services to 356,300 Larut Matang and Selama residents, Manjung district (30,700), Kerian (192,700) and Kuala Kangsar (164,400).

It currently sits on a 16.86ha piece of land with various wards and departments available. It is the second-biggest specialist hospital in the state, providing both primary (accident and emergency) and secondary services.

 – The Malaysian Reserve weekly Oct-2022