SINGAPORE - Despite being a medical institution started by the Chinese, 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 on Saturday (Sept 23).
Thanking Thong Chai for its long history of contributions to Singapore, he said its principle of helping all communities is praiseworthy as it builds a more inclusive multiracial society.
The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic, which provides free consultation and medicine, was established in 1867 at Upper Pickering Street by a group of migrants to Singapore.
It later moved its headquarters to Chin Swee Road and has gone on to open two branches in Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang in 2012, and another in Bedok this month.
Speaking in Mandarin, PM Lee pointed out that in Singapore, some people visit both western medical doctors and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
In his speech, he said good health is important as once people fall ill, their quality of life goes down, their families feel burdened and the country spends more on healthcare.
He added that as the population ages, Thong Chai will play a more important role in dealing with the challenges this brings.
The institution 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 that are prevalent in Singapore, such as diabetes.
PM Lee also noted that the Traditional Chinese Practitioners Board started a continuing education programme in 2013 for TCM practitioners to upgrade their skills.
He encouraged Thong Chai to continue the programme and help more TCM practitioners raise their standards.
He also urged them to carry on the good work their predecessors had begun, and to serve more people and continue contributing to Singapore's healthcare.
The dinner, held at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Ballroom, was attended by 2,000 people.