June 29, 2009

History of Christ Hospital Kapit 1957-1974

Christ Hospital Kapit (1960)

Deep in the heart of the tropical rainforest in what was almost just a little hamlet was a beautiful hospital with white uniformed nurses and an American doctor known as Dr. Bu Tien Siew. He was not Chinese but he had a Chinese name as he had a father who was a great missionary in China in Putien in particular.

Dr. Bu spoke excellent Henghua as he was born in Putien and later grew up there. His father was instrumental in bringing the Henghuas to Sibu in 1912.

Dr. Bu Tien Siew (or Dr. H. Brewster )was a practising New York medical doctor before he was called by God to establish Christ Hospital in Kapit.

A light moment with Dr. Brewster.

Dr. Brewster with his Kapit staff and Methodist Church employees.

(All Photos from Methodist Message Archives)

In the 1950's and 1960's no one in Sibu in particular and the Rajang River Basin in general would not have heard of Christ Hospital of Kapit. Most people would take the 2 days and l night (2D1N) motor launch trip from Sibu to see a doctor (Dr. Ting or Dr. Fan) in Kapit!!

Why would patients go from a bigger town to a smaller town to see a good doctor and get his life saved? Who mooted the idea to have a western hospital built there? Where is that hospital today?

Here's a little chapter of history for you translated from Rev Ling Kai Cheng's book "Fifty Years in Reminisence" published by the Methodist Book Room of Sibu Sarawak.

In December 1954 Dr.Brewster (Bu Tien Siew his given Chinese name) came to Sibu from his New York hospital for a Methodist Mission trip. Born in China he was brought up in the Fujian Province of Putien (Henghua) . Fluent in Hokkien and Henghua dialects he was also a very good speaker of Shanghainese Foochow and Mandarin (National language of China at that time). Immediately he saw the need of a good hospital for Kapit where there were a lot of indigenous people needing medical attention. Mortality rate was high and he applied to the colonial government then for permission to build a hospital.

By 1957 he had gained the various documents to set up Christ Hospital in Kapit. In March 1957 he was able to set up a temporary hospital at Pantu Kapit.

Together with Dr. Ting Lik Kiew (the adopted son of Mrs. Mary Hoover) he went into an enthusiastic and energized mission of set up a good hospital with all the modern equipment sent by ship all the way from New York!

In 1960 the Christ Hospital had a grand opening. Staff included nurses and doctors from multi nations and guests were dignitaries from Malaysia and Singapore and local Dayak Headmen and leaders.

According to the late Mr. Ling Kai Cheng it was an awesom opening ceremony.

The Christ Hospital of Kapit became the pride of the Rajang Basin and an awesome arm of the Methodist

In 1974 the hospital was taken over by the Malaysian Government as it became too expensive to run as a private entity. Today the chapel within the hospital has become the laboratories and a newer five-storey hospital Kapit General Hospital has been constructed next to it.

(If there are mistakes here they are all mine as there were very few original resources I could lay hand on. Article was written in 2004 ( as part of my research on the rubber industry in the Rajang Basin) after interviewing Christian Henghua ladies about their faith and church work and rubber tapping experiences in Sibu and Bintulu and referring to Rev. Ling Kai Cheng's book. Changyi)


menglei said...

CY,my office received dr Ting's biography, oral by himself and writen by his 2nd wife Mdm Jing.We are doing the editing and hope to be published at the end of this year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

That's wonderful! Hope all is well with the publication. Looking forward to reading it. I am sure others are very interested too.

Anonymous said...

That was a long time ago. I will never forget Kapit and hospital! I grew up in Kapit (1955 to 71)and my recollection of both Kapit and the hospital is a profound one. We had lots of visitors from all over Malaysia taking the long trips to see both Dr. Brewster and Dr. Ting Lik Kiew (a good friend of my father). They were both Great men with BIG hearts who saved so many people and made their life better. Hopefully the hospital nowadays has a memorial to remember them by.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Harold N. Brewster (who died in 1965) was my father. He and wife Dorothy, and daughter Betty all served at Christ Hospital during the years 1955-1957. There was a TV show aired in the US in 1957 or 1958, call something like "MD International" which had one segment about the work they did there.
Dr. Brewster's parents, Elizabeth and William Brewster began a continuing tradition of family service in Asia in 1884 as missionaries in China, and now, in the fourth generation, some descendents are still working in Asia as educators.
Dr. Brewster's four children, each now in their seventh decade and living in various parts of the USA , have lived, traveled and worked in many parts of Asia and the world, and continue active interest in world event dynamics. Between us we share 12 adult children and many grands and great grands.

David Brewster
Wadsworth, OH, USA

Anonymous said...

was there an Indian named Vasudevan workin in this hospital during 1950's?i am trying to locate his wife and children who were natives of Malaysia

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
There is a memorial in Sibu to your grandfather at the Heng Hua Memorial Park . It is beautifully written and his photograph is lovely. I have just been there recently. I have not been to the Kapit Hospital recently but I believe something could be done to commemorate your father's and Dr. Ting's good work. Thank you for being a part of Sarawak in Kapit!! I am from Sibu myself.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear David
Thank you for writing your comment here. Please at least allow me to let you know that the Heng Hua Association of Sibu will be organising a huge Centenary Celebration in Nov this year. The Tien Toh Tong (church) in Sg. Merah will be also conducting a thanksgiving service on 22nd May which is very soon. We would appreciate a recent photo or photos of your family!!

Please be in touch....You can also look at photos and the work of Wong Meng Lei too who has written many articles about your father and grandfather and the heng huas of Sibu.htt

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
I shall try my best to trace the family of Vasudevan for you. Thanks for writing in.

Anonymous said...

I recognize Nina Fowler & Lo-Lian Lee. They are sitting side by side in the front row, 3rd and 4th from the left respectively.

Evelyn Baughman-Fong

Ann said...

heheheheh, can I ashamelessly claim to be the most famous celebrity patient?

1968, the performing Arts Society of Methodist secondary school went up to Kapit to perform the musical. At the back stage, I feel sick. We went by lorry, then two very important present day politicians carried me to the hosptial.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Evelyn
Yes it is good to have people remembering those Christians working at the Christ Hospital. Are you still in touch with them? I spoke to Flor and Eddy Woodford this evening. They cannot remember much!! I wonder if Nina has some more photos of Kapit. It would be nice to have photos of Carol Huang and others.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Yes...it must have been fun being ferried by a lorry (so few vehicles in those days) and carried by future YBs....I wonder if they remember!!
I was sick too when I was with the Work Camp digging fish ponds in Kapit...I stayed one night at the hospital.

easechen said...

Evelyn, are you in touch with Nina Fowler? Would love to reconnect with her. She was in Sarikei & I rememeber her teaching us games like "follow-the-leader" at my birthday party.
Where is Dr Fan Siaw Wen? Any news of him?

Anonymous said...

I was born there!
Arthur Lee Cheng Chuan

The Treasures of Life said...

So interesting, I have recently been reading about the Brewsters and their work in Putian. I live in the city that Dr.H Brewster was born in, Putian, China.

Anonymous said...

wow. but as i remember it, there was no body of water in front of the hospital. I was one of the few boys who stayed at Pantu december of 1959 waiting for school to open. Some of us worked cutting grass in the hospital compound and i got sick with very high fever and was admitted to the hospital for three days.
Your article stirs up painful memories.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for writing. I hope the people now running the government hospital in Kapit continue helping those in need. And that Kapit has continued to improve,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

More intereting articles have appeared in various blogs in Chinese from Sarawak on the work of Dr. Brewster..pl refer to Rajang Basin and Going Places. These two blogs are good read also. I have been to Putian. Wonderful place.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

that's nice.

Anonymous said...

I must add, to the late Yong Lo Lian that Evelin Baughman mentioned, who was a child of the methodist mission in Malacca and who was brought up and even educated in the US by them

Ray Sison said...

My father, the late Dr. Liberto Sison, was the dentist at Christ Hospital from 1961-1966. My wife, Vida, I just visited with Dr. Loreto Crisologo who was one of the two doctors there during the time, and two of his children, Carol and John, and their families, recently.

That photo of the hospital was taken during a flood which covered the football field in the valley in front of Christ Hospital. I almost drowned in one of those floods. We lived behind that hospital. Many fond memories of the place and the people there. Will post more comments in due time.

Ray Sison
Methodist International Church Hong Kong

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Clarence Lei said...

i worked as a medical office in Kapit Hospital (Christ Hospital) in 1983-1984: never knew this detailed history, till today. Dr clarence lei clarencelei@gmail.com

Alexander Manton said...

My name is Alexander Manton. Dr. Harold Brewster is my great uncle, he was my grandmother's brother. His father and mother (William and Elizabeth Brewster) started our family's work, she in China in 1884, he Singapore in 1888 (and then he moved to China). I have visited the park in Sibu with his picture on it and was welcomed by many HingHwa folks there, wonderful reception, in maybe 2009 or so. I met someone there whose life was saved by Dr. H Brewster, we had a good hug and a cry, having just met.

Dr. Harold Brewster passed away from a heart attack in 1965 in a sailboat in the MidWest and died in my father's arms. My mother was in the boat at the time and was pregnant with me...! Small world.

I am a photographer and live in Singapore and India now for the past 21 years, having caught the "Asia bug" from my family.

I would love to be in touch with others here. alex@motionpictures.asia

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Pupil said...

I was a medical student from Kansas visiting Christ Hospital in 1965. Just curious.. where is Dr Crisologo now and do you have his email address?

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