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Bringing back the mobile services

As Singapore’s bid to fully vaccinate its population - especially seniors aged 60 and above - against COVID-19 go into overdrive, the authorities are taking a page from the kampung days.


For weeks, the Ministry of Health has been dispatching mobile vaccination teams to dozens of locations around the island, from Woodlands to Bukit Merah, Jurong West to Tampines. They set up shop in void decks and community clubs, bringing jabs to the masses.

Credit: The Straits Times.

There are also 11 home vaccination teams, visiting seniors who are unable to leave their homes.


Two #IGotMyShot trucks, armed with loudspeakers, ply the same areas as the mobile vaccination teams, broadcasting pre-recorded messages in the four official languages and other Chinese languages, calling on the unvaccinated to get their shots. An emcee in each truck provides information such as specific locations and operating hours of mobile vaccination teams.

Credit: Ong Ye Kung, Facebook.

This harks back to the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, when it was common for the authorities to send mobile teams into the rural areas to provide essential services to villagers.


Retrofitted trucks and vans braved the island’s rural roads to reach the most remote of villages. They provided cheap or free medical treatment and check-ups such as x-rays for tuberculosis, postal services, library services, replacement and issuing of identity cards, and so on. These absolved villagers of the need to travel long distances to the City.


A Health Department mobile dispensary, donated by the Rotary Club, in 1951.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

The mobile dispensary serving students of Bukit Panjang Government School, which was deep in the rural regions at the time.

Credit: Bukit Panjang Government School Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

A Government travelling dispensary in 1963.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Mobile x-ray units to combat tuberculosis, 1964.

A mass x-ray campaign at Joo Chiat Community Centre, 1966.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

In 1967, Member of Parliament for Moulmein Avadai Dhanam Lakshimi (the wife of Singapore’s third President, Devan Nair) launched a mobile x-ray campaign in her constituency.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Mobile skin clinics to fight leprosy, 1965.

Mobile identity card services, 1957.

Mobile library services, 1967.

A mobile postal services van, 1963.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

These vehicles were far cheaper than building a new hospital or post office, and their “touring” schedules could be adjusted according to needs on the ground.


From the 1970s, as villagers were resettled en-masse to self-contained New Towns, and as Singapore’s rural areas shrank, these mobile services were gradually phased out. But we are living in unprecedented times now. Old ways sometimes work in the present. 2021’s mobile vaccination teams have successfully reached thousands of people.

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