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:
|No. of Bed
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
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, 2 & 3 is the entrance of the old Lau King Howe Hospital
Copyright 2011 LAU KING HOWE HOSPITAL MEMORIAL MUSEUM ASSOCIATION, SIBU. All Rights Reserved.