Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Penang General Hospital槟城中央醫院

If you asked any Penang people who were born before seventy, where were they born, the majority will replied that they were born in Penang General Hospital. This is the place where most of us first see the world...but not me, I am born in the old city of Georgetown under home delivery, by my own grandmother.

Penang General Hospital or Hospital Pulau Pinang(or Hospital Besar Pulau Pinang (槟城中央醫院 ) is the state owned hospital under the federal Ministry of Health.
The hospital is located at Jalan Rensidensi(Residency Road),10990 Georgetown, Penang; with other various departments located opposite the road, along Jalan Sepoy Lines. It is actually a hospital complex. As public hospital it provided cheap health care and medical treatment to the people of the state. It has total area of 35 acres. It has 3 building blocks, block A,B and C, and other off site units, including Maternity Hospital and Psychatric Ward at Jalan Perak,Penang. It is the earliest hospital in the country.

The hospital has 1090 beds, First Class (75 beds), Second class (94 beds), Third Class(921 beds).

The earliest known hospital was reported to be set up in 1812 at the current site of Eastern and Oriental Hotel(E&O Hotel).

But Penang General Hospital has its history traced back to 1854,when a Chinese merchant with the name of Ah Po (some said Mun Ah Foo)established a Pauper Hospital (平民醫院)to provide for the needs of the poors and needy, and also rehabilitation for the opium addicts. He was the leader of Ghee Hin Society, a Chinese secret society.

Note: In the book "The Chinese in Malaya" 《馬來亞華僑史》, by Dr Victor Purcell(1896-1965) published in 1967, it was reported that in 1827, there was already a pauper hospital at the back of Penang prison, contributed 50% by the government, 50% by the private sector. Penang General Hospital may has its history traced back to 1827 or earlier, and may not be 1854 as reported.

Within the ground of the hospital, there was a monument commemorating the donors. It was a memorial tower with the various memorial stones placed in it.

The site of the original hospital was donated by Ghee Hin Society in 1886, as revealed by the memorial stone. Note: The original building has made way for a nursing hostel , which was constructed in 1930.

The surrounding wall and the ward was donated by Oh Yean Heng and Gan Kim Swee( 颜金水) in 1886. Gan Kim Swee was the owner of Aing Joo & Co and director of The Penang Khean Guan Insurance Company, Penang Opium Syndicate(1880-1888) under Chop Ban Bee. He was from one of the big 5 Hokkian family in Penang 1830-1890. Oh Yean Heng was also one of the party who was middle man between Ghee Hin and Toa Pek Kong Kongsi in 1867 Penang Riot, as a non- secret society Hockkian, together with other Hokkian community leaders requested them to guarantee no life and property lost.

There was a memorial stone dated 1879, with the following list:

1. The Toa Pek Kong Kongsi
2. The Ghee Hin Kongsi
3. Tan Beng Swee
4. Mess Noordin & Shaik Yousoof
5. Chulam Meydin Merican
6. Dalbadal & Yahaya Merican
7. Par Etam Kadir Hossain
8. Mahamad Joonoos & Mahamad Ariff
9. Meerah Pullay Kakah & Che Ismail
10. Shaik Ibram & Mohamad Fahar
11. Oauder Meydin & B Kadir Saw
12. Shaik Ismail & Mahamed Hassan
13.Abbosti Merican & Coopah Peechay
14. Shaik Emam
15. Chalonc Hajee Mahamed Noor
16.Abdul Cauder Merican
17.eliee & Mahamed Noordin Sultan Merican
18. Keechee Mahamed Shariff
19. Mahamed Chous Malim
20.Muna Mastan & Hajee Aboo Bakar

There was another memorial stone dated 1879, with the list of donors , the purpose of donation not stated in the memorial stone, believed to be the continued list of the earlier memorial stone, list is as follow:

Mahamed Amin & Mahamed Meydin
PeerMahamed & Sancardoss
Chandapa & Ong Hong Guan
Shaik Jan & Madar Saw

The King of Siam also donated on 24-5-1890, industrial shelf.

Kindly take note that the Ghee Hin and Toa Pek Kong Kongsi are two Chinese secret societies in early Penang, they are rival gangs. Tan Beng Swee (1828-1884) was Kapitan China of Malacca and the president of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple from 1864-1884, was from prominant Tan family from Singapore. He donated to Tan Si Chong Su( 陈氏宗祠)in Singapore for Tan clan, which was built in 1876. A clock tower located in front of the Dutch square(Stadthuys), was named after him, donated by his son Tan JiakKim in 1886. (note: He is the son of Tan Kim Seng 陈金声(1805-1865), Kapitan China from 1847-1864, who donated the bridge nearby ,and the land for Chinese cemetery in Malacca,also set up Singapore's first fresh water supply line. Tan Kim Seng was born in Malacca, but made his fortune in Singapore as trader). The Merican family was also one of the main donors, they were Indian Muslim business family in early Penang. The donors are of mixed racial background,when at the time there were racial segregation, the non-European and European are having separate wards. (note it is not the culture of Asian to have separation of races, the wards for non-European were for all Asian races). The King of Siam was the ruler of Kedah at the time. I did not see any donation from the colonial master or any European firms......

The cost of construction was $90,997.

Note: This posting dedicated to my grandma who is still in the Penang General Hospital under critical condition)

The meaning of Pauper hospital

A Pauper in Latin is a person in receipt of relief, administered under the poor law. Under the poor laws, a person to be relieved must be a destitute person, and the moment he had been relieved he became a pauper, and incured certain civil disabilities. It also refer to those who are supported by charitable assistance, whether from public or private sources.

Under the poor laws, a person to be relieved must be a destitute person, and the moment he had been relieved he became a pauper, and as such incured certain civil disabilities.

Pauper Hospital is the hospital cater for the poor, a pauper.


  1. Another affordable hospital donated and established by the Chinese, the late Loh Boon Siew and some Malaysian Chinese firms, is the Lam Wah Ee hospital.

    The European firms and the Christian missionary, I believe they donated a lot to the Christian established hospitals, the Adventist Hospital and Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital, but not only hospital, they also had built many schools in Penang (Convent, Saints, Methodist etc.).

    Other hospitals in Penang islands are private and expensive hospitals by the MD (Money Doctor), which I won't mentioned here.

    But the question is, not only the colonial master, but which hospital in Penang Islands is "originally" built by the federal government of Malaysia since independent?

  2. Adventist hospital was one of the earliest private hospital. Lam Wah Ee Hospital also is a pioneer Chinese hospital(using traditional Chinese medicine) in Penang.

    The Christian missionary left many schools, some of them are the pioneer doctors here. We are thankful to them as they played important role in development of Penang.

    My question on why there is no western donors is to prompt further, is the names lost?or missing is just for the GH, not denying the contribution from westerner in the field of medicine.

  3. Maybe their names is not listed there coz they don't want to... They want it remain anonymous.

    Hotel Taganga

  4. hi, I m interested to know more on the book "The Chinese in Malaya" 《馬來亞華僑史》, i wonder where you get it. All i thought Purcell only publish this book on 1948. you can contact me via Thanks