SINGAPORE - With five people in Singapore losing the use of their kidneys every day, simply building new dialysis centres is not enough to cope with the growing number of patients.
The key, instead, says National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chairman Koh Poh Tiong, is education and early intervention - so patients do not reach that stage at all.
To help Singaporeans take charge of their health, the NKF launched a new hotline on Saturday (May 6) as a "one-stop resource centre" to spread awareness about kidney failure, part of the measures it is collaborating on with the Government to support the war on diabetes.
The hotline - 1800-KIDNEYS (5436397) - is manned by four operators who speak the four main languages, as well as dialects.
Mr Koh revealed this new initiative at the opening ceremony of the new Le Champ-NKF Dialysis Centre in Bukit Panjang.
The new centre's 16 dialysis beds will be able to serve 96 kidney failure patients, helping to relieve the crunch in the other centres nearby.
"At the current rate, it will be a far greater challenge for us in the future to build more centres, especially with an ageing population," he said. "I would prefer if Singaporeans can look after themselves better by watching their health and exercising regularly... Prevention is better than cure."
North West district mayor and Bukit Panjang MP Teo Ho Pin, who attended the event, said this centre will help improve the quality of life of patients living in the area, but the overall outlook is worrying.
He pointed out that there were more than 6,200 patients in 2015, compared with 3,700 in 2006.
And the NKF's 31 dialysis centres, which help around 4,000 patients, are operating at full capacity.
Singapore ranks first in the world for diabetes-induced kidney failure, as well as fourth and fifth for the number of existing and new cases respectively, he added.
"With more than one million seniors aged 65 and above by 2030, many of whom have one of three chronic illnesses - high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, it is indeed a very worrying trend," said Dr Teo.
Diabetes, which every two out of three NKF patients suffer from, and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney failure, while cholesterol can also clog the renal arteries.
Another seven new NKF centres will open by 2020, including a mega dialysis centre in Jurong West that can take in around 1,200 patients.
This is all part of the charity's strategy to tackle the growing numbers. NKF is the largest kidney dialysis provider here. But it is not "future-proof", stressed Mr Koh.
Hence, the need for prevention.
Mr Koh said the charity received more than 1,000 calls at its various departments last month. Anyone can call the hotline to learn more about the disease, or ask about NKF's programmes and services or the admission process and criteria.
Those with fund-raising ideas or want to explore possible collaborations with NKF can also call.
When asked about the hotline, retiree and NKF patient Law Ching Nge, 77, said: "The new number is easier to memorise."