Did you know that about 30 years ago, our hospital only had three physiotherapists (PTs), one of whom was "on-loan" from another hospital?
TTSH Rehabilitation Centre located at Mandalay Road in 1982.
Geraldine Tay, Chief Physiotherapist at TTSH Rehabilitation Centre in 1982, recalled that Singapore only had 13 physiotherapists then and everyone had to be rotated every six months amongst the government hospitals.
"When I first started in 1973, I was the only physiotherapist in TTSH Rehab centre along with an Ah Mah and an attendant," she recalled.
Physiotherapy wasn't that critical a service then, and there were limited resources set aside to grow the profession. Hardly any PTs were sent for postgraduate courses. Philippe Steiner who led our physiotherapy department in 1995 saw the importance to upgrade the profession. He started sending young PTs for postgraduate courses, despite the shortage of PTs then.
"The better the ground (the PTs), the better the care. The people need Allied Health."
Susan Niam, who is now the Chairperson for Allied Health Services and Pharmacy in our hospital, was amongst this pioneer batch to go for postgraduate courses. Philippe had in fact personally cut out a scholarship advertisement by Curtin University of Technology, Australia and presented it to her.
She graduated from Curtin with a Masters of Physiotherapy.
We have indeed come very far from where we were three decades ago. From a team of three therapists, we are now about 150 strong serving our patients at TTSH and in the community. Physiotherapy services, education and research have developed since. The can-do and resilient spirit of our pioneers have opened doors, provide opportunities and defined the future of the physiotherapy profession.
When Tuberculosis was prevalent in Singapore, Chia Swee See, who was our first Head of Physiotherapy at TTSH recalled that she received a bottle of full-cream milk and eggs from the hospital every morning. It was to boost the immune system of the front line staff.