Communicable Disease Centre

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


The Communicable Disease Centre is the national centre for the management of communicable and infectious diseases. It has its roots in a camp established by the government in 1906 to quarantine patients with infectious diseases.

Singapore’s early cases of infectious diseases were treated at either the General Hospital or the Chinese Pauper Hospital (now known as Tan Tock Seng Hospital).

In 1907, patients were warded at a new quarantine camp located at Moulmein Road.2 Between 1907 and 1931, hospital buildings were added to the camp. In July 1913, the quarantine camp became the Infectious Diseases Hospital. This hospital was later renamed Middleton Hospital in November 1920 in appreciation of Dr W.R.C. Middleton's work following his resignation.

In 1985, Middleton Hospital was absorbed into Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and renamed the Department of Communicable Disease (DCD). In 1992, TTSH was restructured and its Tuberculosis Control and Epidemiology sections merged with the DCD to form the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC). The restructuring was followed by a major upgrading of CDC’s infrastructure and facilities. CDC remained under the purview of the Ministry of Health (MOH) until 1 April 1995, when the centre came under the direct administration of TTSH.4

Description and facilities
The CDC is made up of a series of single-storey blocks or pavilions housed in a spacious park-like setting. It was designed by D. M. Craik, then the architectural assistant to the Municipal Council of Singapore. Its facade is simple and unpretentious, and each block is designated as a ward. Each ward opens onto wide verandas on all sides via large shutters. Ventilated louvres on high-pitched roofs with ceiling fans ensure good ventilation. Additions and alterations were made to the building by the Public Works Department in 1984 and 1985.5

Isolation facilities at the CDC were improved due to the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. The existing CDC, known as CDC 1, underwent renovation and rebuilding, with new isolation rooms added and its facilities upgraded. The works were completed in May 2003.6

A new SARS wing, called CDC 2, opened on 16 August 2003 in a block beside the new TTSH building. This block was previously home to the Ren Ci Community Hospital. CDC 2 houses 64 isolation rooms, 18 ICU rooms and an operating theatre. MOH spent close to S$30 million to construct this wing in anticipation of future SARS outbreaks in Singapore.7

Future development
TTSH first announced the plan to build the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in 2013 as part of a master plan to have a “health city” in Novena8 to better enhance Singapore’s ability to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases.9 The NCID will be located at TTSH’s new Integrated Care Hub (ICH), which is scheduled to open in 2022. ICH will be located right next to the main hospital in Novena and is part of the HealthCity Novena healthcare complex due to be completed in 2030.10 As the key centre for the clinical management of infectious diseases, NCID will replace the century-old Communicable Disease Centre at Moulmein Road and the CDC 2 facilities beside TTSH.11

NCID will be a 14-storey centre with 330 beds in 17 wards. The building is designed with separate lifts for visitors, patients and staff to reduce the risk of cross-infection. To handle large outbreaks, NCID will have a screening centre able to accommodate 520 patients and a specialist outpatient clinic that can be converted to screen 130 more patients when necessary. Although NCID will be a self-contained centre, it will be connected to the main TTSH building and will be able to tap on TTSH’s resources for more coordinated operations.12 NCID is expected to be able to handle large outbreaks and highly infectious diseases safely and is due to open in phases from 2018.13

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, eds., One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 1 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 506. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
2. Robert L. Jarman, ed., Annual Reports of the Straits Settlements 1855–1941, vol. 5 (UK: Archive Editions, 1988), 596. (Call no. RSING 959.51 STR-[AR]); I. Nadarajah, Brief Early History of the Hospital Services, Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Outram Road General Hospital, 1969), 3. (Call no. RCLOS 610.95957 GEN)
3. Straits Settlements, Straits Settlements Government Gazette, no. 94 (5 November 1920), 3. (Call no. RRARE 959.51 SGG; microfilm NL1201); Chee Yam Cheng, “Tan Tock Seng Hospital – Singapore’s SARS Hospital,” Medical Digest, part 3 (October–December 2003), 14–20. (Call no. RSING 362.11095957 MD)
4. “Municipal Commission: Tributes to Retiring Health Officer,” Straits Times, 25 September 1920, 10. (From NewspaperSG); Chee, “Tan Tock Seng Hospital – Singapore’s SARS Hospital,” 14–20; “Communicable Disease Centre Comes under TTSH’s Wings,” Straits Times, 5 April 1995, 22. (From NewspaperSG
5. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 103. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
6. Chee, “Tan Tock Seng Hospital – Singapore’s SARS Hospital,” 14–20.
7. Alexis Hooi, “$30M for TTSH to Get Fighting Fit Should SARS Return,” Straits Times, 24 July 2003, 2; “TTSH’s New SARS Wing Opens Its Doors,” Straits Times, 24 August 24, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Priscilla Goy, “New Infectious Disease centre to Combat Outbreaks,” Straits Times, 4 November 2014, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “Groundbreaking of National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Centre for Healthcare Paves the Way in Meeting Singapore’s Healthcare Challenges,” Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 3 November 2014.
10. Linette Lai, “500-Bed Rehab Hub Next to TTSH to Open in Five Years,” Straits Times, 22 March 2017, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “New TTSH Rehabilitation Complex to Open in 2022,” Channel NewsAsia, 21 March 2017.  (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
11. Amy Khor, “The HealthCity Novena (HCN) Day 2017,” speech, 21 March 2017.
12. Goy, “New Infectious Disease centre to Combat Outbreaks.” 
13. Lai, “500-Bed Rehab Hub Next to TTSH to Open in Five Years”; “New TTSH Rehabilitation Complex to Open in 2022.”

Further resources
Communicable Disease Centre (Singapore), 100 Years: A Commemorative Publication for the Communicable Disease Centre (Singapore: Communicable Diseases Centre, 2007). (Call no. RSING 362.11095917 COM))

Salma Khalik and Lee Hui Chieh, “Shopping trip for 3 Turned Horribly Wrong,” Straits Times, 18 March 2003, 4. (From NewspaperSG)

Salma Khalik and Wong Shermaine, “Sars-Free, Now to Fine-Rune Crisis-Handling,” Straits Times, 1 June 2003, 1. (From NewspaperSG)

Sars Man Goes Home,” Straits Times, 17 September 2003, 5. (From NewspaperSG)

Wendy Tan, “Sars or No Sars, Singapore Will Not Let Its Guard Down,” Straits Times, 30 May 2003, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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