Despite being a medical institution started by the Chinese, Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution serves all patients, regardless of their race, religion or nationality.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded the charitable clinic for its selfless service to the poor at its 150th anniversary dinner yesterday.
Thanking Thong Chai for its long history of contributions to Singapore, he said its principle of helping all communities is praiseworthy because it helps to build a more inclusive multiracial society.
The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic, which provides free consultation and medicine, was established in 1867 in Upper Pickering Street by a group of migrants to Singapore.
It later moved to Chin Swee Road and went on to open two branches in Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang in 2012. It opened another branch in Bedok this month.
Speaking in Mandarin, PM Lee pointed out that in Singapore, some people visit both Western medical doctors and TCM practitioners.
In his speech, he said good health is important because once people fall ill, their quality of life goes down, their families feel burdened and the country spends more on healthcare.
Number of patients seen by Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution each year.
He added that Thong Chai will play a more important role in dealing with the challenges that come as the population ages.
The institution currently sees about 400,000 patients a year.
Citing government efforts in the area of TCM, PM Lee said the Ministry of Health had set aside $3 million in 2013 to raise the standards of TCM in Singapore and to promote collaboration between scientific researchers and TCM practitioners.
Another $5 million in funding will be provided over the next five years to encourage more research, especially on chronic conditions prevalent in Singapore, such as diabetes.
PM Lee noted that the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board started a continuing education programme in 2013 for TCM practitioners to upgrade their skills, and that Thong Chai had similarly started classes of its own to help raise standards.
He encouraged Thong Chai to continue with the classes.
He also urged the clinic to carry on the good work of its predecessors, as well as to serve more people and continue contributing to Singapore's healthcare.
The dinner, held at Marina Bay Sands Grand Ballroom, was attended by some 2,000 people.