More dialysis centres in existing facilities for better integrated care

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (holding a copy of the new commemorative book), NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong (centre) and NKF chief executive Tim Oei (in red) on stage with participants in yesterday's event marking the foundation's 50th anniversary
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (holding a copy of the new commemorative book), NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong (centre) and NKF chief executive Tim Oei (in red) on stage with participants in yesterday's event marking the foundation's 50th anniversary.ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA
Mr Richard Tay, who has been undergoing dialysis for the past 39 years, is one of the patients featured in the new commemorative book showcasing the NKF's 50-year journey.
Mr Richard Tay, who has been undergoing dialysis for the past 39 years, is one of the patients featured in the new commemorative book showcasing the NKF's 50-year journey.ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA

NKF move set to improve accessibility as patient population ages

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) will build more dialysis centres within polyclinics, community hospitals and community centres in a bid to improve integrated care and support for the increasingly complex needs of patients.

New centres located in Punggol Polyclinic and Toa Payoh West Community Club are due to be operational by September this year and August next year, respectively.

NKF chief executive Tim Oei said yesterday that the foundation had also submitted a proposal to set up a dialysis centre in a community hospital located in the northern region of Singapore.

“We are in dire need of more dialysis centres, particularly in the east and the north-east. Currently, the occupancy rate of dialysis centres in these areas is about 90 per cent,” he said.

He was speaking at an event marking the foundation’s 50th anniversary at the NKF Centre in Kim Keat Road.

With Singapore’s rapidly ageing population, more than half of the NKF’s dialysis patients are now over 60. They are more likely to be frail, require mobility assistance and be afflicted with other conditions, such as hypertension.

Locating dialysis centres within existing healthcare and community facilities will improve accessibility and convenience, especially for high-dependency patients who are already going to hospitals for other medical needs, said Mr Oei.

Currently, many patients at community hospitals that do not offer dialysis have to spend six to seven hours a day – including travelling time – to undergo treatment at a dialysis centre, he added.

In his opening address, NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong revealed that the foundation’s annual operating cost has doubled since he took over as chairman in 2012, from $60 million then to $120 million this year.

This is mainly because of the rising number of kidney failure patients, he said.

In 2012, about three Singaporeans suffered kidney failure each day, and the NKF was treating about 3,000 patients at 25 dialysis centres. “Today, the rate has increased to five a day and next year, it will be 5.8 a day. We now look after 4,500 patients at 36 centres,” said Mr Koh.

With the opening of more dialysis centres – including a “mega centre” in Corporation Road that will have 120 chairs, compared with an average of 20 chairs at most centres now – the foundation’s operating cost is expected to rise to $160 million by 2021, he added.

A commemorative book showcasing the NKF’s 50-year journey was also launched at yesterday’s event. It features stories and reflections written by patients, caregivers, NKF staff and other stakeholders, as well as portraits of each writer created by students from the School of the Arts.

One of the patients featured is medical equipment sales director Richard Tay, 58, Singapore’s longest-surviving dialysis patient. He was born with a blocked bladder and has been on dialysis for the past 39 years – since he was 19.

In the early 1980s, Mr Tay would spend 15 to 16 hours a day undergoing dialysis at a hospital.

He said dialysis today is much faster, easier and more convenient, as he spends just four hours a day at a dialysis centre near his home in Clementi.

The book was launched by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin, who was guest of honour at the event. He said the NKF plays an important role not only in providing dialysis treatment but also in promoting kidney disease prevention and organ donation.

“Going forward, we will invariably still have to deal with the numbers of kidney patients and the finances that come with supporting all of them in the years to come,” he said.

“But if we endeavour to really step up in terms of having healthier lifestyles, promoting healthier diets and also organ donation, we can alleviate a lot of the burden that will be placed on the NKF and other agencies involved.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'More dialysis centres in existing facilities for better integrated care'. Print Edition | Subscribe