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Farewell, Black Lion of Moulmein

Shutters come down on facility that sheltered infectious disease patients for 105 years

Memories of or sai from Through the Lens on Vimeo.

The Straits Times (17 December 2018) - From smallpox, plague, diphtheria, thyroid, cholera and malaria in the early 1900s, to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Nipah virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and the threats of a flu pandemic in recent years, the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) has been through them all.

After being at the forefront of fighting major infectious diseases in Singapore for more than a century, the gates of the old compound located in Moulmein Road finally closed as operations ceased last Thursday.

Built in Balestier Road in 1907, it was first named the Government Infectious Disease Camp and served as a quarantine camp.

In 1913, it moved to the site in Moulmein Road. It went through several name changes such as Infectious Disease Hospital and Middleton Hospital, before it was renamed Communicable Disease Centre after the merger


However, it is perhaps better known among older Singaporeans and cab drivers as “or sai”, which means “black lion” in Hokkien.

A black lion emblem guards the centre’s main entrance, and has become synonymous with the place, which cared for patients with HIV, dengue, skin problems like psoriasis, and tuberculosis.

For principal medical social worker Ho Lai Peng, 49, who had worked at the CDC since 1991, one of the things she will miss most about the place is its greenery.

1907

Year the Government Infectious Disease Camp was built. It served as a quarantine camp.

1913

Year it moved to the site in Moulmein Road.

1985

Year it was renamed Communicable Disease Centre.

“I often joke that I work in a garden,” she laughs.

A sanctuary of sorts, rambutan, mango, duku langsat and other old trees can be found on the wide expanse of land.

Wildlife such as roosters, civet cats and even snakes also appear on the compound occasionally.

The CDC, which will be demolished, sits on a 9.65ha plot of land that has been zoned for residential purposes, according to a plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

It has been replaced by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), a new 330-bed facility situated across from TTSH, which is progressively ramping up its operations from this month.

The specialist clinic started operations on Nov 26, offering outpatient infectious disease services.

From next month, NCID will open its public health and clinical laboratories as well as a mass screening centre, operating theatres, intensive care units and isolation wards.

It is expected to be fully operational by the middle of next year.


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