In the early 1950s, you won't want to get sick in Sarikei. There was only a dispensary (not a hospital). The dispensary was a small room at the western end of the old Sarikei District Office at Nyelong Road. It was staffed with one assistant and a senior male dresser (not even a nurse).
World War II ended the Brooke rule in Sarawak. Instead of giving independence to Sarawak, the Brookes transferred authority of Sarawak to the Colonial Office in London (to be ruled as a Crown Colony from 1st July 1946), which in turn dispatched a Governor for Sarawak. This led some Sarawakians to become anti-secessionist. On December 3, 1949, Sir Duncan Stewart, the second governor of Sarawak, was murdered by Rosli Dhoby (a member of Rukun 13 cell) in Sibu. (Source: Wikipedia)
The newly appointed Governor, Sir Anthony Foster Abell, tried to create goodwill amongst the different societies and visited Sarikei. The Sarikei Chamber of Commerce gave him a dinner reception. Chen Ko Ming, after thanking him for his concern about the Sarikei people, appealed to him for urgent need to build a hospital in Sarikei. The Governor felt embarrassed and slightly agitated. He replied something along this line, "If you've small illness like headache, you can treat it with Aspro and there is a dispensary at the goverment district office to attend to the sick." Needless to say, Sarikei folks were very disappointed with such a response. Aspro (from UK) was the aspirin of the old days.
In the mid 1950s, a wooden house on stilts opposite Siaw Ah Khoon's quarter at the Nyelong River wharf was converted into the first hospital. The staff comprised of three trained nurses, a few helpers, cleaners and Dr.Wong Toh Hoo 黃道富 (a graduate from a university in Shanghai). Mr Lam, the ambulance driver, and his family was given a room as their residence.
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 (in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus) was common in the 60’s, around one case per week at Sibu's Lau King Howe Hospital. (Source: 2)
It was not until the early 60s that the second hospital was built at about half mile Repok Road on the land acquired from Mr. Chua Kim Hing 蔡金興 of No 3 Wharf Road (金成安 Kim Seng Ang). There's even a shortcut from his current house at Friendship Road to this second hospital.
Before the second hospital was built, this area was popular for the cruel sport of cock fighting. All races would congregate at this area to gamble on the winning cocks. The two opposing camps were Sarikei from Sungai Sarikei side versus Nyelong from the Sungai Nyelong side. The Ibans were known to do their "trance" dance whenever there's a win.
The second hospital started moving to the third hospital at Rentap Road in 2006. It has ceased operations in 2007/2008 after operating as a temporary polyclinic for outpatients, pre-natal checkups and dental appointments.
Now if you dare, take a walk in the spooky corridors of the abandoned second hospital. It looks empty but has the last person really left the house?
1) A Sarikeian in his 70s.
2) Sibu's Lau King Howe Hospital (link)