Australia continues to waste organ donation money

Australian organ donation plummets 2 places to 22nd in international leaderboard ranking

New annual international comparison figures show that Australia’s global standing in organ donation and transplantation for 2014 has plummeted from 20th to 22nd place whilst 13 other countries such as Croatia, Belarus and Malta have increased faster than Australia.

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Australia's number of organ donors shrunk to just 16 donors per million population (dpmp), falling back to pre-2013 performance [1].

There are approximately 1,700 people on Australian organ transplant waiting lists at any time. If Australia had reached leading performance as intended, instead of performing at just 46% of leading practice, approximately 1,100 more transplants could be done each year.

The study also found that:

  • 22 countries have higher living donation rates (taking place when a living person donates an organ)
  • 15 countries achieved higher organ transplant recipient rates from deceased donors
  • 17 countries achieved higher total transplantation rates (living plus deceased donors)
  • Australia has the 4th highest donations after circulatory death rate internationally

Brian Myerson, Director at ShareLife, said: “If Australia was to perform as poorly in the Olympic medal tally there would be outrage but clearly the same does not apply for our organ donation system. Consent rates continue to dominate the debate but the data shows this is just one element relevant to high donation rates. Doctors need to be trained in identifying every potential donor and to ensure donor families are given the right information to make informed decision.”

The data shows that not all countries that have high consent rates have high donor rates. Countries such as Slovak Republic have over 80% family consent rates and Poland, which has translated to 11.6 dpmp and 15.5 dpmp respectively.

Between 2009 and 2014, an unprecedented $240 million in federal government funds were spent to reform the organ donation system in Australia. This reform plan aimed to implement the world's leading practice system with a stated goal ‘to establish Australia as a world leader’ within 4 years. That program has failed and the donation rate sits at just 16 dpmp. Our performance in no way reflects our investment, as evidenced by international ranking.

“We cannot fall into a trap of blaming families for low organ donation rates. Change needs to happen within the hospital system. The only training the Organ and Tissue Authority has implemented since program reform has been on increasing donor consents. This data confirms that it is not enough and hospital’s processes need to be updated.”

It was another successful year for Spanish transplant coordinators as they came out on top with 35.7 donors per million population. The results come on the back of a visit to Sydney from the creator of Spain’s leading practise model, Dr Rafael Matesanz who was in Australia to offer advice and support to Australian doctors on leading practices in organ donation.

ShareLife continue to wait for the announcement following a review of Australia’s organ donation regime was announced by the then Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash in May.

NOTE 1: The Council of Europe Transplant Newsletter Globally organ donation rates are measured in Donors Per Million of Population (DPMP) as this takes into account changes in population over time.

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