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Jul. 12th, 2005

As an ex-staff of NKF and (and ironically now a staff at SPH), I can't help but be bothered by the lawsuit news. I've written about my work experience at NKF before and I stayed away from the 'controversial issues' on purpose because I was trying to focus more on the plight of the patients whom I had to deal with on a regular basis and the difficulties I faced then.

My first thoughts were..what was Durai thinking of when he decided to sue SPH? Did he not know what this media giant can do to him and his beloved organisation? Or was he thinking he was beyond reproach and that no one could touch him? I've always thought that NKF's cause is good.. Its aim has always been and I believe still is, to help the dialysis patients and they went a different route from the other non-profit organisation by engaging the media and public in a big way. There was a time when NKF was like those other organisation, had to scrimp and watch their spendings & overheads..But as it became more successful in it's fundraising, it became more lax and I'm sure Durai's sense of importance and ego also grew accordingly. He'd assumed he would come out victorious again and boy was he wrong.

I have no issues with TT Durai's pay. I feel that he is entitled to his 25k per month salary (even though i was paid pittance when i was working there :P). He is one of the most hands-on & hardworking CEO ard and those who'd worked at NKF will acknowledge that. But, like many..I think the bonus paid out to him is way too much. And he isn't the only one getting that kind of bonus..so are many of his senior management staff, some of whom, are probably earning more than 150k per year. But the fact of the matter was that he lied. He lied about how long the reserves can last for, about the first class airfares (which we all knew abt) and deceived many people along the way.

I've also always felt that more could have been done for the patients especially since NKF has so much reserve. Having worked in the department that was in charge of the welfare of the patients, I had problems with many of the practices of the organisation especially with regards to patients. I don't want to go to much into it but it was mainly to do with how the fees was determined. One of my main gripe then were patients who had insurance coverage, either by their company or through Medishield. In such cases, NKF would charge the maximum of $2400 for their fees. However, such coverage usually has a cap of up to a certain amt and by charging them such fees, it would mean that the insurance money would run dry soon. This disturbed me because dialysis is a lifelong treatment and by doing so, the patients would lose out in the long run.

During my stinct there, I was asked to terminate a patient dialysis treatment because he was didn't pay his fees for 6 months. It was an order made from the top and I had no choice but to pen the letter informing him of his last date of dialysis. Before that, I was like a debt collector, calling him and his family every other day to chase for payment. Also, I'd been trying in vain to find suitable jobs for the patient and his wife but they turned down all jobs offered to them. There was nothing much I could do then but to request for their fees to be lowered and debt to be waived but it was rejected. The case was soon brought to the press knowledge and the public soon came to know abt the patient's 'dismissal' from NKF. And this was what happened..

(from TNP, Aug 5, 2000)
NKF: We're sorry, it was our mistake

PROCEDURES not followed.

A bad error. And the National Kidney Foundation is sorry for making a mistake. And for sending Mr Yap a letter informing him that his dialysis sessions were being terminated.

"In this particular incident, the staff involved did not follow the procedure and the staff have been severely reprimanded," Mr Alwyn Lim, vice-chairman of the NKF, told The New Paper.

He added: "It was a human error on the part of the staff and I have asked for a review of the department because it's essential that serious mistakes like this not be repeated."

More importantly, the NKF has amended its termination procedures.Now, Mr Lim will serve as the final check. He explained: "Whatever the staff recommends comes to me for final assessment before it goes to the termination stage. It automatically triggers off the appeals panel."

I was freaking pissed that my dept was sorta made a scapegoat as a result even though I was merely following instruction to terminate the patient's dialysis. It wasn't me alone. My HOD was 'blamed' too..and she'd served NKF faithfully for 8 years. It was after this incident that I knew I had to leave the organisation soon as I'd became disillusioned and didn't like what I was doing anymore. So no one was surprised when I finally left the company. Anyway, I'm digressing here..

I don't know how NKF can ever survive this PR disaster. I'm sure many organisations and donors will be withdrawing their support soon and people would be demanding that NKF's licence as a profit organisation be revoked. But what then of the patients? And what's worse is that the other charities may lose out too as people becomes more cynical and refuses to donate as a result..

Edit : There's now an online petition asking
for the removal of TT Durai as CEO of NKF

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Jul. 12th, 2005 02:11 pm (UTC)
I give a fixed sum to NKF monthly. Have done so ever since I started working. It's not that I'm naive or think that NKF is the best charity org around, but helping patients undergoing kidney dialysis is something I personally care about alot, as with caring for the aged. So it really saddens me that while NKF's cause was (is?) noble, some of the policies and folks running the show are terribly terribly flawed and should be removed.

A backlash is inevitable methinks given the disgust many people must feel right now. I can only hope a new, more transparent, and "cleaner" NKF (or equivalent organisation) will emerge from the debacle quickly to rekindle the passion to donate towards a humane cause without skepticism or reservations. At the end of the day, what really matters most is not flogging Durai and his henchmen (though they may well deserve it) or "punishing" NKF and other charity orgs, but making sure that the policies and safeguards are in place so that the money really gets channeled to the folks who need it most. Yeah I feel kinda betrayed, but I gotta be mindful how I channel my displeasure and not end up punishing the real victims instead.
Jul. 13th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how NKF can survive after this..im still pondering why Durai had persisted in the lawsuit..clearly he should know how the media will deal with him..Did he really think he could win SPH? bah.

And yes..the real victims here are the patients...Some pple said not so coz of the cash reserves for NKF but one shouldnt think of it this way. Dialysis is an expensive treatment and after this, many of the staff will prob resign ..same for the medical staff at NKF and the treatment that they will get will definitely suffer..*sigh* Hope this will be handled properly somehow..

Jul. 13th, 2005 11:52 am (UTC)
Maybe Durai sincerely believed that the perks were fair (save for the gold tap *heh*) and it was a matter of saving face/reputation (his and NKF's). Or maybe ego got the better of him and deluded him into thinking he's LKY. LOL!

Yes, I think it was improper of NKF to falsely inflate the number of patients treated and low-ball how long the cash reserves would last in an attempt to drive public sympathy and boost donations. Good intentions maybe, but it still doesn't make what they did right. Assuming NKF really has enough cash reserves to last 30-40 years, they should look at making dialysis more affordable for patients and boost service levels today ... instead of "saving" it for "patients of the future" (or so they claim).

But what's truly appalling about this whole fiasco is the apparent lack of a check-and-balance mechanism or audit process. Ironically, I think people will still gladly give even if they knew the truth about NKF's cash reserves, if they hadn't been deceived ... but the caveat being that the public must also have the right to know how the money is spent since it is public money after all. Clearly, more transparency is needed and that in itself could be a form of check-and-balance and, hopefully, restore the public's faith in organisations like NKF.
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:08 pm (UTC)
eh, who's the auditor for NKF?
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:22 pm (UTC)
Erm, PwC ... according to their website. They also claim they have an independent Audit Committtee.
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
This is beginning to sound like another Enron case to me...
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:34 pm (UTC)
when i was still at NKF, the numbers were already falsified..as instructed by you know who. I know coz my dept helps to draft many of the letters especially when it deals with the patients' welfare. I was never comfortable with it but it had always been explained that it was a marketing strategy. It was intentional for sure and not a mistake..especially since all letters are scrutinised before it goes out.
And yes..it doesnt make sense to 'save' so much for the future when you can do so much for them at present. Dunno lah..not sure whether im saying too much here anyway.

I agree that if NKF had been more transparent with their funds (+ if they havent been deceived on the other matters), the public would still donate..Doubt it will be easy to restore the public's faith in NKF..or another other charitable organisation for that matter..
Jul. 13th, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
In his quest to boost NKF's reputation and cash position (or perhaps his own fame), Durai seems to have forgotten that the entire livelihood of his organisation rests solely on the generosity of the very same people he has deceived. That, I think is what leaves a very VERY bad after-taste in the public's mouth ... to realise now that their kindness has been taken advantage and made a mockery of.

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