Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum, Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia.





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Lau King Howe Hospital History

The early view of Lau King Howe Hospital

      Sibu started as the small Melanau Village in the 1850’s. The Brooke’s Government built Fort Brooke in 1862 and marked the official opening of Sibu town. The town expanded with the arrival of Chinese, [mainly those from Hokkien (Fujian) province since 1860’s. On 1st June 1873, the 3rd Division of Sarawak, with its base in Sibu was established. The first hospital in Sibu was built in 1912 by the Rajah Brooke Government. It was located just in front of the site of the old Lau King Howe Hospital. It was a wooden single-story raised-floor building about 50-60 feet long. It had an out-patient department, as well as one each of female and male wards for in-patients.

      In the early 20th century, Sibu changed from a small village into a busy business town. The original hospital was too small to cater for the growing population. Influenced by his father’s charitable work, Mr. Lau believed that instead of leaving wealth and property to his offspring who might waste them, it would be better to donate them to the government to build a hospital to bring benefits to the society.

      Lau King Howe Hospital was built in 1931 and completed 1936 at a cost of Dollars 82,000. The original plan had four blocks of buildings, Steward Ward, Brooke Ward, Second Class Ward and X-Ray/ Physiotherapy unit. These blocks accommodated the medical, surgical, paediatrics ward and labour room with attached small nursery. With increasing demand expansion, extensions were made later. The bed strength of early day Lau king Howe Hospital was not officially available. In later years it is as follows:

Year 1947 1954 1959 1961 1967 1970 1976 1980 1986-1994
No. of Bed 55 88 192 280 293 304 345 385 424

Development Progress

  • 1957 Kitchen/ laundry, Igan ward, Rejang Ward, Mortuary
  • 1959 First Class ward, Marina ward (Paediatric), Outpatient Department
  • 1961 Air-conditioned Operating Theater, Chest ward & mass-miniature X-ray unit, Nurse's Home
  • 1965 Maternity Ward (Extension of Labour room) with post-natal ward and new nursery
  • 1972 Psychiatric ward
  • 1975 Minor surgery room, Autoclave room, Extension of laboratory & admission room
  • 1976 Female Medical ward
  • 1978 Detoxification ward
  • 1981 Intensive Care Unit
  • 1984 Haemodialysis Unit


          When it started operation, the hospital was run by a sole Medical Officer. Dr. Le Gros Clark, one of the early medical officers who had later became the regius Professor of Anatomy in the renowned Oxford University. In the fifties, there were 3-5 medical officers. Among the earliest specialties were surgery, medical and gynecology. On-call duty was equally shared among all doctors. In fact, the specialists had to do more, covering the on-call medical officer as well. Prior to World War II, the hospital had only 3 nurses. The night shift lasted for two weeks with one sleeping day and one-night off. Gradually, the number of nurses increased. Prior to independence, the heads of nursing, matron and nursing sisters, were all Europeans. Infectious diseases were rampant in the early days. Common diseases seen in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were diphtheria, tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, malaria, post-measles bronchopneumonia, filiariasis, diarrhoea and pelvic inflammatory disease. Infant mortality rate was high. Ectopic pregnancy was common in the 60’s, around one case per week.

          The workload was very heavy. The use of canvas beds was a common sight. Life was really tough for the medical staff but teamwork was excellent. Despite the demanding work, many had fond memories of those times.


    (Picture 1)

    (Picture 2)

    (Picture 3)
    Picture 1, 2 & 3 is the entrance of the old Lau King Howe Hospital



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