NKF extends reach beyond kidney cases

Staff nurse Nur Asiah, 27, preparing Mr Shanmuganathan for his kidney dialysis treatment.
Staff nurse Nur Asiah, 27, preparing Mr Shanmuganathan for his kidney dialysis treatment.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

New $12m complex to help those with diabetes, hypertension too

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is synonymous with kidney disease and dialysis treatment in Singapore.

But the largest kidney foundation here, which has been around since 1969, intends to break new ground .

It will join in the country's war on chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure by setting up a chronic disease management unit in its upcoming $12 million mega complex in Jurong.

The new clinic will offer care management services for people with hypertension and diabetes-related ailments such as foot and eye problems. It will be open to the public.

Explaining the reason NKF is extending its focus to include care for other medical conditions, chief executive Edmund Kwok said: "Diabetes and hypertension are two leading causes of kidney failure.

"If we can manage and control these two chronic diseases, we are one step closer to curbing the onset of kidney failure."

CONTROLLING THE CAUSES

Diabetes and hypertension are two leading causes of kidney failure. If we can manage and control these two chronic diseases, we are one step closer to curbing the onset of kidney failure.

NKF CHIEF EXECUTIVE EDMUND KWOK, on the NKF extending its focus to include care of other medical conditions.

Today, countries commemorate World Diabetes Day.

Of the more than 400,000 diabetics in Singapore today, one third do not even know they have the disease. And, of those who do know, one in three has poor control.

If nothing is done, things will just get worse, with one out of every three people here - more than a million - getting diabetes.

Down the line, five more people every day find out that their kidneys have failed. In 2014, there were 1,730 new kidney-failure cases.

"We are still in the stage of developing a comprehensive care model. Local hospitals perform roughly 1,500 diabetes-related amputations a year, or about four a day. It's crucial to look into various complications caused by diabetes," said Mr Kwok.

The chronic disease management unit will be within NKF's new Jurong facility, which is 10 times the size of regular centres. It will be ready late next year.

NKF is the main dialysis provider here, and nearly all of its 4,000 or so patients have high blood pressure, while three-quarters have diabetes. More than seven in 10 of its patients who were admitted in the last financial year had kidney failure because of either of these conditions.

1/3 rise in patients on subsidised dialysis

Currently, NKF refers its patients to agencies such as the Diabetic Society of Singapore and SATA CommHealth for annual eye, foot and X-ray screenings.

The new unit is meant to be a one-stop centre where people get help in detecting and managing chronic diseases, which may or may not lead to other illnesses including kidney failure.

In the past three years, the number of patients getting subsidised dialysis treatment from NKF has jumped by one third.

One of them is Mr S. Shanmuganathan, 52, who is single and lives alone.

Though he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997 when he was 33 years old, he did not change his lifestyle and diet as he thought he was still young and fit. At times, he skipped his medication.

Four years ago, he started to take his condition seriously when his left leg had to be amputated due to an infected wound. He began running with the help of a prosthetic leg, and swimming.

But his kidneys were already losing their function and he had to be hooked up to a dialysis machine three times a week, from last year.

Said Mr Shanmuganathan, a part-time trainer at the National Cadet Corps: "When I was young, I did not know how serious diabetes can be and I got a shock only when my leg had to be cut off. By then, it was too late, so more awareness and support to manage such diseases is very important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'NKF extends reach beyond kidney cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe