NKF's new CEO Tim Oei aims to tackle the rise of kidney disease

Mr Tim Oei took the helm of the National Kidney Foundation in August. PHOTO: NKF

SINGAPORE - The National Kidney Foundation may need to build more mega-dialysis centres to meet the growing demand for such services, said its chairman Mr Koh Poh Tiong.

This, even before its first centre that can dialyse 600 patients opens at Corporation Road in April next year. Currently, its 32 centres can treat 80-160 patients each.

With five new kidney failure patients every day, Mr Koh, who had promised that no Singaporean will die for lack of dialysis, said: "We may have to build mega-centres in the east, south and the north."

He cited this as a reason he was glad to have Mr Tim Oei, 58, helm the NKF from last month.

Mr Oei, a lawyer by training, and former head of charity organisation AWWA for almost 10 years, was selected from more than 50 candidates. Mr Oei promised on Thursday (Sept 7) to bring "holistic care" to patients and to work with other agencies to "arrest the rise of kidney disease".

At the press conference to introduce him, Mr Oei said his priority is to ensure that the NKF gives both good quality care to patients as well as hope when facing "this very frightening" problem.

Since taking on the mantle on Aug 21, he has met many patients and staff and saw how patients fall into depression because they can no longer do the things they used to.

About 40 per cent of patients are wheelchair-bound amputees. Mr Oei said it is important for the NKF to "give them the assurance that they are not alone on this journey".

But part of his job will also be to ensure that the NKF has sufficient funds to meet the growing demand.

The NKF is Singapore's biggest dialysis provider, with 4,200 patients. It takes in two out of three new dialysis patients here.

Last year, it spent $100 million providing dialysis care, as well as on educational programmes about diabetes, the main cause of kidney failure here. By 2020, it will need $150 million a year.

But donations to the charity remain below the levels it received prior to the scandal involving former CEO TT Durai 12 years ago.

Almost half of the 250,000 regular donors stopped their donations following revelations of Mr Durai's high salary, bonus and lavish lifestyle, paid for by the charity.

NKF now has 167,000 individual donors and is also supported by corporate donors. Mr Koh assured "proper processes are in place" and every cent used by the NKF today is accounted for.

Last November, it sacked Mr Edmund Kwok, 58 for a personal indiscretion. He was appointed CEO in November 2013. However, Mr Koh said the sacking did not affect donations, since it had nothing to do with the running of the foundation.

Former CEO Mrs Eunice Tay was recalled to act as interim CEO from December last year. Mrs Tay was the CEO who helped rebuild the NKF's reputation after the Durai saga.

On Thursday, Mr Koh thanked Mrs Tay for stepping out of retirement to help the NKF over the last past nine months "to steer NKF during a crucial period of time and ensure that all operations and services to patients remained undisrupted". It also gave the Board time to find a suitable CEO.

Mrs Tay, who plans to return to church work in Kuching, said that with Mr Oei as its CEO, the NKF "is in good hands".

Mr Koh added: "What struck us most about Tim is his compassion towards the needy and underprivileged, as well as his passion for helping them."

People who want to donate to the NKF can do so at: https://www.nkfs.org.

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