NKF patient says sacked CEO always found time for his patients

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Retiree Joseph Chan, 63, learnt of the sacking of National Kidney Foundation (NKF) CEO Edmund Kwok only after he touched down at Changi Airport on Wednesday evening.

"I turned on my mobile phone and there it was, all over the Internet and on my Facebook wall," Mr Chan, a kidney patient, told The New Paper yesterday.

The news was so upsetting that he broke down, he said.

"I was shocked. I could not believe it. He was a good CEO who cared for all the patients. He would come down to talk to us so he could understand our problems and fears," he added, his voice breaking.

Dialysis patient Joseph Chan (right) broke down in tears when he heard the news of Mr Edmund Kwok’s sacking. Photo: The New Paper

Mr Chan, who is also a volunteer patient-counsellor at the NKF headquarters in Kim Keat Road, said Mr Kwok always had time for him and other dialysis patients.

"No matter how busy he was, he would always stop to shake my hand and ask how I was doing. I will certainly miss him," he said.

On Wednesday morning, NKF announced in a press statement that Mr Kwok had been sacked, effective Monday, citing "personal indiscretion" as the reason.

NKF sacks CEO Edmund Kwok over 'personal indiscretion'

  • Mr Edmund Kwok, seen leaving his house at 1.25pm on Nov 17.
  • The interior of his house.
  • The cars inside his house.
  • The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) had no choice but to sack its chief executive officer Edmund Kwok, given the seriousness of his offence against a male colleague, said the organisation's chairman, Koh Poh Tiong (right).
  • Mr Koh Poh Tiong said he was both disappointed and extremely sad because "Edmund (pictured) was a very good CEO".
  • Speaking to the media last night, Mr Koh said NKF's 11-member board was unanimous in deciding that strong and swift action had to be taken because one man's personal indiscretion "cannot and must not affect the whole organisation".
  • Mr Kwok's "personal indiscretion", which The Straits Times understands to be of a sexual nature, occurred on Nov 7.
  • "We have been working day and night. We have been having two hours of sleep," said Mr Koh, who consulted endlessly with the directors, board members and lawyers, after the issue surfaced.
  • The organisation's lawyers advised Mr Koh that what happened was a "reportable offence".
  • The disciplinary hearing, conducted by a three-member panel chaired by board member William Wan (foreground), was held on Sunday afternoon. Dr Wan said Mr Kwok again admitted to the facts of the case.
  • On Monday (Nov 14), Mr Kwok's employment with NKF was formally terminated. A police report was made on Tuesday.
  • In the three years that Mr Kwok has helmed the charitable organisation, he introduced night dialysis to help those who work in the day.
  • He also started building a $12 million mega complex in Jurong that can care for 2,000 patients a week, and found jobs for patients who had become unemployed because of their need for thrice-weekly dialysis.

At a press conference later that day, NKF Board chairman Koh Poh Tiong said the "indiscretion" involved a male employee who had made a complaint against Mr Kwok on Nov 7.

This is the second major scandal the charity has faced in just over a decade.

In 2005, then CEO T.T. Durai was found to be living a lavish lifestyle using funds raised by the charity. He was later convicted of corruption and sentenced to three months' jail.

The NKF has not fully recovered from the Durai fallout.

Read also: NKF had no choice but to sack CEO Edmund Kwok, says chairman

At its peak, the charity had about 250,000 donors, but the number dropped to 146,000 in 2012. Today, it has about 160,000 donors.

At Wednesday's press conference, the NKF Board took pains to stress that "one man's indiscretion must not affect the whole organisation".

"The organisation is not about one man. It's about 4,000 patients and many more... We did what was needed. We terminated his services," said board member William Wan.

BOUNCE BACK

Reiterating this on Wednesday, Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee, who was also once the chairman of NKF, told Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that in the past few years, mechanisms have been put in place to prevent senior management from influencing the operations of the charity.

He said he is confident that NKF will be able to once again "ride out the storm".

Read also: NKF sacks CEO Kwok over 'personal indiscretion'

Since Mr Kwok took over as CEO of NKF, the number of patients needing dialysis at the organisation has grown to about 4,000. Last year, NKF spent $100 million to provide the service because it heavily subsidises needy patients.

Dialysis patient Ismail Shahul Hamid, 62, told TNP that he was worried when he learnt of the sacking.

"But everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, he lost his job for his. Our dialyses still have to go on. I don't think his mistake will affect the organisation or the donors because it was not about misusing money," he said.

Mr Ismail, who is unemployed, takes cares of his son, who had a traumatic brain injury that left him bedridden.

Noting that more people are suffering from kidney failure nowadays, he said: "I hope the incident will not stop Singaporeans from donating as the money will help needy patients like me get treatment."

This article was first published on November 18, 2016. Get The New Paper for more stories.