Singapore healthcare pioneer Kwa Soon Bee dies aged 86

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong says Dr. Kwa laid a strong foundation for the modern healthcare system.

Singapore: Dr. Kwa Soon Bee, healthcare pioneer dies aged 86
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Singapore's healthcare pioneer and former civil servant, Dr. Kwa Soon Bee, died at the age of 86 on Sunday.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Sunday that Kwa was a "true pioneer of healthcare in Singapore".

"He made immense contributions to our healthcare system over the years, and personally nurtured many of our healthcare leaders of today," the statement added.

Kwa spearheaded the redevelopment of many public hospitals in the country, including the Institute of Mental Health, National Dental Centre and the current Health Promotion Board building, Changi General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the then Kandang Kerbau Women & Children's Hospital, as well as the expansion of the polyclinic network.

The first national speciality centres in Singapore such as the National Skin Centre and the Singapore National Eye Centre were set up by Kwa. "Dr. Kwa laid a strong foundation for the modern healthcare system," Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Channel NewsAsia.

"Although I never worked with Dr. Kwa directly, I have benefited from the legacy he left behind, 20 years after his retirement," Gan added.

According to Gan, a number of current hospital buildings and polyclinic facilities in Singapore were built or redeveloped during Kwa's tenure as Permanent Secretary and Director of Medical Services.

"Dr Kwa also implemented the 3M framework – Medisave, MediShield and Medifund – which has kept healthcare affordable for all Singaporeans," Gan said.

Kwa was the first Singaporean who was trained in clinical and laboratory haematology. He started his work under the British upon his graduation as a doctor in 1955. In 1963, Kwa was put in charge of the Blood Transfusion Service and his work significantly increased blood collection in Singapore.

"Many of the leaders he nurtured are now playing leading roles in Singapore's healthcare system. MOH, healthcare professionals, and indeed, all Singaporeans, are indebted to Dr Kwa for his lifetime of dedication and commitment to developing Singapore's healthcare system," Gan said.

Kwa was appointed as the medical superintendent of the Kandang Kerbau Hospital in 1968 and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) in 1972. He also chaired the planning committee on the development of the current SGH.