SOME things never change despite the passing of time, and Assunta Hospital is a fine example of an institution that has retained its standards after 52 long years.
“The physical outlook of the hospital has changed, but the core values that left behind by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have remained,” said Nursing Sister Helena Tcheng, adding that the nuns arrived in 1953 at the request of the Catholic hierarchy in Kuala Lumpur to look after the medical needs of the underprivileged in Puchong and Petaling Jaya.
“The caring spirit, friendliness and love are legacies that the hospital staff have inherited from the nuns through the years,” she said.
Tcheng, 74, hails from China, and has served at the hospital since it opened as a small clinic in a rented house in 1954.
“When we started out, there were only four nuns, three of whom worked as nurses and one, a doctor. I was the sixth nurse to come on board,” said Tcheng.
The little clinic at the rented house in Jalan 1/4, Petaling Jaya, was extended to two others, including a free clinic in Puchong, followed by a maternity home with only 12 beds housed in an open ward in Jalan Assunta.
According to Tcheng, when the first phase of the Assunta Hospital opened in 1962, there were only about five doctors including a French surgeon (Assunta’s first), an anaesthetist, physician and paediatrician.
“The hospital would not have existed had it not been for former Health and Social Welfare minister Tun Leong Yew Koh who helped us obtain the land and encouraged us to build the hospital,” said 73-year-old Sister Patrician Choong, who now serves in pastoral care at the hospital.
By then more nuns had arrived from as far as Canada, Ireland, China, France, Australia and England.
While the facility was lacking in resources (the first phase comprised only two floors and could accommodate some 100 patients), nearby residents stepped in to offer assistance in cash and kind.
“Times were hard. We were on call 24 hours a day, and learnt to be thrifty in order to save as much as we could.
“We held fun fairs twice a year to raise funds, and had the help of nearby residents who donated beds and other equipment, while some rooms or wards were donated by early patients and corporate companies,” said Tcheng.
Today, Assunta Hospital is a premier private healthcare facility in Petaling Jaya, with a staff force of some 700 personnel and top facilities to cater to the new city’s population of 417,000.
The hospital is the first private hospital in the country to be awarded ISO 9002 Certification in 1996, and was accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health in 2004.
What distinguishes Assunta from a great many organisations in Petaling Jaya is that the 52-year-old institution has been a major part of the city’s history.
Yesterday marked a new chapter for the hospital with the launching of its new wing in conjunction with Petaling Jaya’s achievement of city status.
Built at a cost of about RM9mil, the new wing will house clinics, wards, diagnostic laboratories, specialist clinics, operating theatre facilities, wards and a five-storey car park with 250 bays.
“The hospital has grown with Petaling Jaya and it is this unique relationship that has made it one of the major landmarks of Petaling Jaya,” said the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah when launching the new wing yesterday.
“I hope the hospital will continue its noble efforts of helping those in need.”
While such expectations may be high, they are not impossible to fulfil, considering the standards that the management has imposed on its staff and service level over the years.
“We emphasise on teamwork, care and encourage our nurses to build a close rapport with our patients,” said assistant nursing director Lai Wai Kuen.
“Feedback from our patients have been favourable, in that they have commended the excellent care and commitment from our nurses and doctors.”
Haniza Abdul Hamid couldn’t agree more. Currently, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) public relations director, Haniza has had first-hand experience of the hospital’s healthcare expertise.
“The hospital’s facilities are really very good. I was hospitalised here when I was a child, and was again hospitalised in 2003 for gastritis.
“The service and expertise of the medical personnel here are excellent,” she said.