National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chairman Koh Poh Tiong foresees the building of more mega dialysis centres in the country to cater to the growing demand of these facilities. Newly appointed NKF CEO, Tim Oei also aspires to grow the organisation with increased finances – extending support for the greater good of the mounting kidney patients.

New CEO aims to provide patients with holistic care

Singapore’s first mega dialysis centre is set to open in Corporation Road next April, and will be able to dialyse 600 patients. At the moment, the 32 centres available can only dialyse 80 to 160 patients, each. NKF will build seven more dialysis centres, including an integrated renal centre, by 2020.

Koh promised that no Singaporean will die for lack of dialysis. He said, “We may have to build mega centres in the east, south and the north.” Singapore reports five new kidney failure patients daily.

Due to this, Koh expressed his delight in having newly elected Oei helm the NKF. A qualified lawyer, 58-year-old Oei formerly headed the charity organisation AWWA for close to 10 years. Speaking at this first press conference since his appointment in May, Oei pledged to bring access to “holistic care” to patients and collaborate with other agencies to “arrest the rise of kidney disease”.

Eager to put past NKF controversies behind him, Oei expressed that, “the past is the past. Things have been done – I cannot undo all those. But, we have learnt some lessons, we have strengthened the organisation.” Talking about the questions pertaining to the NKF scandals that he received, when he shared his wishes to be the new CEO of NKF, to his friends – Oei said he would like to move forward; and “Let’s focus on what we can do, let’s focus on what we have done and can do for the patients.”

He also stressed on NKF’s priority to ensure both good-quality care and hope is given to patients enduring “this very frightening” issue. Fulfilling his responsibilities as the CEO of the organisation, he has met many patients and staff and seen first-hand how not being able to carry out their usual routine led patients to depression.

Amputees make up roughly 40% of patients, and Oei placed importance on NKF’s role in giving “them the assurance that they are not alone on this journey”.

Funding still insufficient; donors remain apprehensive post-scandal

As far as funding goes, the organisation still faces some struggle. The NKF serves as Singapore’s largest dialysis provider – with 4,200 patients under its belt. As a whole, it takes in two thirds of new dialysis patients.

In 2016 alone, NKF spent SGD100 million to provide dialysis services and on educational programmes surrounding diabetes. It is projected that by 2020, SGD150 million annually will be required to sustain them. Sadly, donations to the organisation remain substandard, as compared to before a scandal involving former head T.T. Durai in 2005.

After Durai’s high salary, bonus and lavish lifestyle – all paid for by the charity – were exposed, roughly 50% of the 250,000 regular donors halted their donations. These days, NKF has 167,000 individual donors, and also receives corporate aid. Koh assures that “proper processes are in place” to account for every cent used by them.

Former CEO Eunice Tay was recalled to act as interim CEO from December 2016 – following another scandal involving past CEO Edmund Kwok’s “personal indiscretion” involving a male employee – and has helped re-establish the NKF’s reputation. Speaking at the media conference, Koh thanked Tay for her service over the past nine months “to steer NKF during a crucial period of time and ensure that all operations and services to patients remained undisrupted”.

Tay, in return, assured that NKF “is in good hands” with Oei as the new CEO. Koh also praised Oei stating, “What struck us most about Tim is his compassion towards the needy and underprivileged, as well as his passion for helping them.” MIMS

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