In just a year, a team of nurses from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) turned five of the most infection-prone dialysis centres into role models for the other 26.

Its efforts won the team one of the highest accolades at yesterday's Singapore Health Quality Service Awards, which honour people who have made the greatest impact on patients' lives.

The NKF team started tackling the problem in 2014, when it first noticed that five dialysis centres had the highest rate of central-line infections. These lines, which enter a patient's body, are critical for dialysis but were often contaminated - partly because of poor staff hygiene, and also because patients did not know how to care for the wounds.

In response, the NKF team stepped up training for staff. It also produced a brochure to educate patients on the dos and don'ts.

"We wanted to make it simpler for them, so we had pictures in the brochure," said Ms Jamilah Jantan, one of the team members.

Infection rates at the five centres dropped from 7.14 per 100 patient-months in 2014 to 1.23 by April 2015 - lower than the overall average of around 2.31.

The team's award was one of over 3,500 given out to both individuals and institutions in healthcare at yesterday's ceremony, organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre.

It was attended by Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, who spoke on the importance of improving productivity, especially when faced with the dual challenge of an ageing population and tighter labour market.

"Through productivity improvement, we can achieve greater efficiency, which can be translated to more convenient, accessible and affordable care for our patients," he said. "And we want to do this by achieving, at the same time, better or equally good clinical outcomes."

Another winner was Mrs Julie Seow, a diabetes life coach at Touch Diabetes Support.

The support group has more than 1,000 members today but Mrs Seow, who has Type 1 diabetes herself, remembers how it started out as a group of diabetics small enough to meet in her home.

"When you are diagnosed with diabetes, your life takes an upside-down turn," said Mrs Seow, who found out she had the chronic ailment two months before her wedding day in 1983. "I really needed to know somebody else who had gone ahead of me in this, and see that she had survived."

The group - which now comes under voluntary welfare organisation Touch Community Services - gives diabetics practical tips on how to take care of themselves, and encourages its members to challenge themselves despite their illness.

And, of course, it stays true to its original mission of providing a listening ear to anyone in need. Said Mrs Seow: "We help one another. We are all people who are trying to overcome a struggle in their lives."