New dialysis centre in Punggol to involve mobile patients in own treatment for better health outcomes

SINGAPORE – A new dialysis centre was officially launched in Punggol on Sunday (Dec 5) that will see its mobile patients take responsibility for their dialysis sessions by measuring their own vitals and laying out medical supplies before starting treatment.

This self-responsibility has been shown to improve patients’ health outcomes as they are involved in their own treatment, said the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), which runs the new centre in Oasis Terraces at Punggol, in a statement.

The new initiative is called “in-centre self-care”. The more active and mobile patients will monitor their blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and learn proper handwashing steps before preparing and laying out the supplies required for dialysis, added the NKF.

After the patient has opened and laid out the medical supplies, such as needles, alcohol swabs and saline solution, all the nurse has to do is insert the needles and cannula into the patient’s arm and start the dialysis.

The new centre brings the total number of NKF dialysis centres islandwide to 39, and it is the second largest after NKF’s Integrated Renal Centre in Jurong West.

It is also the first dialysis centre to be located in a new-generation neighbourhood centre such as Oasis Terraces, which also houses Punggol Polyclinic opposite the centre. Most other NKF centres are located at the void decks of Housing Board flats.

“The centre’s location in a neighbourhood centre means our patients are well-supported with easy access to affordable medical facilities, supermarkets, and food and beverage outlets,” said NKF chief executive officer Tim Oei on Sunday.

The centre has 35 dialysis stations and can take in up to 210 patients. It started operations in September 2019 and there are 208 patients receiving treatment at the centre currently. Initially planned for a mid-2020 launch, the centre’s official opening was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Ms Yeo Wan Ling – both MPs of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC – launched the new centre, named the NKF Dialysis Centre Supported by Ngiam Kia Hum & Family.

Mr Ngiam is the managing director of Haneflex Singapore, a company that supplies fuel-handling equipment, and he has been a long-term donor with NKF. He started donating dialysis machines 15 years ago and wanted to help set up a new dialysis centre for the foundation.

Mr Ngiam was spurred to support patients with kidney conditions after witnessing his old friend battle kidney disease many years ago.

The new in-centre self-care initiative was introduced at the centre last month. Currently, one middle-aged patient has completed the training and five other patients have been identified to join the programme, said NKF.

After undergoing a 2½-hour training with the centre’s nurses, Madam Manisah Mohamad Salleh, 57, learnt to independently take her weight, measure her blood pressure, and remove medical equipment such as needles from the packaging in a safe and sanitary manner.

For the past two weeks,  Madam Manisah Mohamad Salleh has been measuring her vitals and preparing her medical equipment on her own before starting dialysis. PHOTO: NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION

Learning to read the data from her medical reports and dialysis machine helped her understand why she had to limit her fluid intake to one litre a day, and watch out for rising or falling blood pressure, which can cause side effects or complications during dialysis.

For the past two weeks, the retired assistant childcare teacher has been measuring her vitals and preparing her medical equipment on her own before starting dialysis. As a patient with stage four kidney failure, Madam Manisah has to undergo dialysis three times a week, with each session lasting four hours.

“I can be independent and I understand my condition better. It also helps to ease the nurses’ workload, so they have time to focus on other duties. I know how to practise self-hygiene and protect (the dialysis site) against infections,” said Madam Manisah.

Seriously ill or wheelchair-bound patients will not be eligible for the self-care programme.

The NKF nursing team introduced the programme to the centre after reading about how patient responsibility initiatives benefited those undergoing dialysis in the United States.

Mr Oei explained: “When patients are more involved in their treatment plans, they are more optimistic about their condition and more motivated towards improving their health.

“Various studies conducted in the US have shown that patients reported improvements in quality of life, including enhanced energy, improved appetite and reduced sleep disorders.”

On top of having to cope with the physical symptoms of kidney failure and the side effects of dialysis – including dizziness and pain – patients are also affected by other stressors such as the loss of autonomy, uncertainties about the future, and depression, noted NKF.

The new programme aims to ease those challenges for patients.

Northeast and East Zones lead at NKF, Loong Sai Wah, 63, gives guest-of-honor SM Teo Chee Hean a tour of NKF’s newly launched dialysis centre at Oasis Terraces in Punggol. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

This programme for mobile patients will be progressively rolled out to other NKF dialysis centres, starting with those in the northern region.

Mr Teo said at the launch that renal disease is a growing problem in Singapore, with the number of people diagnosed expected to rise given the country’s ageing population and rising prevalence of chronic diseases.

“This centre will serve our patients in the north-eastern region of Singapore, including Punggol and Sengkang… We hope that (the self-care component) will allow our patients to develop greater confidence and independence, as well as control of their health,” he added.

The new centre was set up with funds from Mr Ngiam and his family and other donors, as well as a grant from the Government.