JB Hospital then and now

Before the government hospital in Johor Baru was renamed Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), it was called the Johor Baru General Hospital or simply GH, in short.

Facade of the Johor Baru General Hospital in 1946
A wooden building was used as the earliest GH in JB since 1882 and it was replaced by a sturdy 5-storey structure with a red brick finishing designed in a symmetrical layout with East and West wings.

Construction of the JB hospital that commands a panoramic view of the Straits of Johor, started in 1938 and was completed in 1941.

The Teochew community in JB fondly refers to the hospital as puay kee lau that literally translates to “airplane building” because the aerial view of the building layout resembles an airplane.

Wards and department buildings including a nurses training
college have been built in the hospital compound
In 1928, the residence of Ungku Khatijah, the sister of Sultan Abu Bakar, was completed on Bukit Cengkih, a hill behind the hospital that earned its name from the clove (cengkih) plantation there. 

After her demise, the palace was renovated and used as the hospital’s Officers’ Ward or first-class ward but this building is now used as the Hematology Ward and part of the Monash University campus while the first-class ward shifted into an extension of the main building.

The hospital compound is bordered by Jalan Mahmoodiah and Jalan Skudai/Jalan Abu Bakar while Jalan Dato Wilson, a road that meanders around the main hospital building, was once an area occupied by staff quarters.

Retired hospital staff who lived there often reminisce about how their quarters were flooded when the tide was high and the backflow from the sea washed up into their homes! 

A section of patients waiting to collect their prescriptions
from the pharmacy in clinic Mahmoodiah
As patient needs increased, these staff quarters were demolished to build the polyclinic and now almost every available space in the hospital compound is occupied by buildings for wards and various departments including a nurses training college.

HSA continues to provide affordable quality healthcare to the public in JB and when the polyclinic could no longer cope with the sheer volume of patients, an out-patient clinic was opened at Jalan Mahmoodiah in 2005.

“Prescriptions for patients in the polyclinic are also prepared and sent to the drive-through pharmacy in the Mahmoodiah clinic for convenient pick-up,” said Dr Manoharan R P S Pillay, who explained that patients of Mahmoodiah clinic are given the option to collect their regular prescriptions through their drive-through pharmacy.

Now besides dealing with patients’ medical needs, the hospital administration is also trying to cope with car-parking issues not just among patients but also with hospital staff.

The hospital carpark in front of the polyclinic is
notoriously jam-packed with parked cars!
Inconsiderate parking that obstructed other drivers, has caused tempers to flare and even the recently implemented car-parking fees, has not provided a viable solution to the parking problems in the hospital compound.

“We come to a government hospital because this is what we can afford but now we have to pay parking fees too,” said a patient who only wanted to be known as Zali, unhappy that a public hospital is charging parking fees when patients spend long hours waiting for consultation here.

“If the hospital built a multi-storey carpark and then charge parking fees, we will be more willing to pay,” said Ong, who was visiting his father in the hospital, and also appears frustrated about the traffic congestion in the poorly designed existing car park.

No solution is in sight for HSA patients who continue to encounter serious parking problems here because they suspect that many spaces are occupied by vehicles parked early in the morning by car-owners who commute by public transport or car-pool to work in Singapore.

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 24 Aug 2015

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