She has 50 years in health care

Ms Rosalind Tan, 74, a senior executive in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's (KTPH) operations department, has been conferred the title of Chief Gardener by her staff.
PHOTO: She has 50 years in health care

She was once tending to patients, but now she tends to plants.

Ms Rosalind Tan, 74, a senior executive in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's (KTPH) operations department, has been conferred the title of Chief Gardener by her staff.

Ms Tan has also been nicknamed Madame Butterfly for her work with Alexandra Hospital's butterfly garden.

She was honoured last week at Alexandra Health System's (AHS) Staff Recognition Awards.

She is the first and only employee to clock 50 years of service in health care, working as an occupational therapist (OT) from 1963 to 2002, and doing landscaping thereafter.

Ms Tan has always had a passion for nature and flora.

On holidays with her husband, Mr Tan Wee Lee, 80, the couple stayed away from shopping, choosing to view natural attractions such as the tulips of Europe.

Ms Tan's home garden has received the Community in Bloom Award for private gardens.

Mr Tan, who was an architect, now joins his wife daily in tending KTPH's rooftop organic farm.

He also uses his architectural background to give valuable input during planting. The couple have been married for 47 years, and have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Ms Tan's career with AHS began when she joined Alexandra Hospital in 1982 as an OT.

Back then, the OT service specialised in child psychiatric therapy.

She revamped the focus and changed the physical environment to treat patients with hand injuries, strokes and other physical disabilities.

She was one of only 12 OTs in Singapore, and had to endure long periods without holidays until she could get someone to cover her.

This is no longer a problem as local polytechnics now offer diplomas in occupational therapy.

Ms Tan eventually rose to the position of chief occupational therapist of Alexandra Hospital.


In 2002, when she was 62, Ms Tan willingly took a 20 per cent pay cut to stay on and manage the hospital gardens.

With no formal training in horticulture or botany, she learnt everything from scratch, devouring books, attending lectures and networking with experts to quickly become proficient.

She was responsible for the first open-concept butterfly trail in Singapore, earning the nickname Madame Butterfly.

"Rather than caging the butterflies, like an aviary, I seeded the trail with plants that were prime nesting spots for butterflies instead," she said.

When KTPH was under construction, Ms Tan was roped in to plan its gardens and rooftop organic farm.

She has since built up an extensive network of volunteers (mostly retirees) to tend to the biodiversity of the hospital.

She said proudly: "The rooftop garden is very successful, and even members of the Cabinet have come to visit."

193 staff get long service awards

Last Friday, 193 Alexandra Health System (AHS) staff were conferred five-year, 10-year, 20-year, 30-year, 40-year and 50-year Long Service Awards at the health-care cluster's inaugural Staff Recognition Awards ceremony.

In previous years, the conferment of such Long Service Awards were tacked on to other ceremonies.

AHS manages Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and the future Yishun Community Hospital.

Among the awardees were KTPH's Ms Rosalind Tan, who is the first and only 50-year Long Service Award recipient.

This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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