Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at NKF’s 45th Anniversary Charity Dinner, 5 Apr 2014

Mr Koh Poh Tiong, NKF Chairman,

Mr Edmund Kwok, NKF CEO,

Board Members, Management and Staff,

Distinguished Guests,

Beneficiaries,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A good evening to all of you.

1.         I am very happy to join you at this special occasion as NKF celebrates another important milestone – 45 years of giving life and hope to needy kidney patients.

Burden of End-Stage Renal Diseases in Singapore

2.            When I first met Poh Tiong and Gerard to talk about NKF, they shared with me the challenges they faced. And they said that, I remember very clearly, that the more they do, the more difficult it gets because as you expand your services, the more costs. In fact, Poh Tiong said it (operating costs) was $60 million the year before, and now it is $70 million, and next year, we don’t know how much it will cost. So the more they do, the harder it gets. So I told them that, it is that the harder it gets, the more we need to do. So we hope we will continue this partnership with NKF. Between the Ministry of Health and the NKF, we will continue to serve our patients to the best of our abilities.

3.            As Poh Tiong has shared with you, kidney failure is on the rise in Singapore. The number of new patients with end-stage renal disease or ESRD for short, more than doubled from 679 in 1999 to 1544 in 2011. This increase was also partly due to the ageing population that we are facing today.

4.            In this regard, I am glad that NKF has been working hard with community partners on multiple fronts to tackle the rising burden of ESRD.

Capacity building for haemodialysis

5.            I am pleased to know from Poh Tiong’s announcement, that five new NKF centres will be built in the next two years or so through the generosity and support of caring sponsors. This will certainly benefit many kidney patients in Singapore. While NKF continues to serve our nation’s needy kidney failure patients, and encourage organ donation, it is important as Poh Tiong pointed out, to tackle the root of the problem upstream through preventing the conditions that lead to kidney failure in the first place. This means encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle through regular physical activity, balanced diet, staying smoke-free and controlling the various risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes. These are all priority areas for the Ministry of Health, not just because of kidney failure; but also to reduce problems like heart attacks, stroke, cancer and other undesirable outcomes.

6.            Diabetes and high blood pressure are leading causes for kidney failure. Many patients developed kidney diseases due to poorly controlled diabetes. Upstream problems when left unattended, will lead to major problems, suffering and high costs downstream.

NKF’s efforts in preventive measures

7.            Many of us associate the NKF with dialysis centres but not all would know that NKF is actually doing much more. Besides providing affordable, sustainable and quality renal care, NKF also carries out public education and prevention programmes in the community to create greater awareness on kidney diseases.

8.            This is in line with Ministry of Health’s priorities in educating and raising awareness in the community on kidney diseases and at the same time reiterating the importance of early detection and good management of risk factors. This is particularly important among the high-risk groups with pre-existing conditions. This includes the setting up of the Education and Prevention Fund and the Kidney Discovery Centre to reach out to the general public as well as potential patients and their family members.

Promotion of Kidney Transplantation

9.            Last but not least I am also pleased that NKF has taken a step further by promoting kidney transplantation as another preferred treatment option for patients with ESRD. To this end, NKF has set up the Kidney Live Donor Support programme in 2009 to provide financial assistance to needy live kidney donors. Transplanted patients are known to be able to lead a better quality of life with lesser disruptions to their daily living as compared to dialysis patients who have to set aside several hours for each dialysis session. However, our transplantation rates can still be improved upon. In this regard, my Ministry has embarked on a “Live On” campaign since 2008 to raise public awareness and understanding about organ transplant.

10.         This year, we will strengthen our publicity plans to promote organ donation and transplantation. Through our efforts, we hope that Singaporeans would be encouraged to discuss with their loved ones and their family members on organ donation. We hope that as we have a wider conversation on this topic, the life-saving and life-changing benefits of organ transplantation can be better understood and embraced by the society. We look forward to partnering NKF in this respect.

Conclusion

11.         With our population ageing, it is important that the community supports voluntary welfare organisations like NKF to help take care of the healthcare needs of our people. In that way, we can all look forward to ageing with confidence and without concerns. It is heartening to know that NKF has a team of trained medical social workers and practitioners, who provide holistic care to the patients including the emotional and psychological needs of the patients. This includes providing counselling services for patients, initiating group therapy sessions and self-help groups as well as conducting home visits when necessary.

12.         I urge all of you to continue working with NKF. I am certain that with your strong support, NKF will be able to continue providing quality treatment and care to needy kidney patients.

13.         Together, we can make our nation a happier and healthier one and allow our seniors to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. Together, we can make their lives much better.

14.         And on this note, I want to wish NKF all the best as they do their part in helping the less privileged in our society.

15.         Now, let me just say a few words in Mandarin. 各位来宾,非常感谢大家今天晚上来参加我们全国肾脏基金会的45周年慈善晚会。这的确是一个非常重要的里程碑。这些年以来,全国肾脏基金会一直不遗余力地给予肾脏病友新的希望。随着我们人口的老龄化,我们的社区应该更紧密地与像NKF这些慈善团体一同携手合作,应付人民的保健需求。我相信在大家的同心协力之下,我们将能更有信心地面对老龄化的挑战。在这里,我要特别呼吁大家能够继续给于全国肾脏基金会您的支持。因为只有在各界善长仁翁的鼎力支持之下, 他们才能够继续为贫苦的肾脏病人提供优质的洗肾及治疗服务。让我们一起来伸出关爱之手,创造一个更健康、更快乐的家园, 让我们的长辈们也能够过着充实和有意义的晚年!

16.       谢谢大家的出席。Thank you and I hope you will enjoy the evening.

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