Organ donation in Australia: money misspent and lives wasted

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A report on Australia’s performance in organ donation in the first quarter of 2015 has shown that Australia’s donation rate continues to decline.

After 21 months of continuous decline in Australia’s organ donation rate, ShareLife, a community group made up of business experts, medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families, is calling for real change to the way Australia’s organ donation system is being managed.

"Thousands of Australians are suffering and dying needlessly because they are missing out on life-saving organ transplants. Despite an unprecedented investment in reform over the past six years, Australia’s organ donation rate remains shamefully low,” said Brian Myerson, ShareLife Director today.

“What has happened to the $250 million that has been dedicated, over six years and three governments, to make our system best in the world?

“Organ transplantation is one of the most miraculous feats of modern medicine and Australian doctors have some of the best success rates in the world. Australia also has a very high awareness rate, with the majority of Australians (around 76 per cent) willing to become organ and tissue donors. Unfortunately, however, Australia’s organ donation rate does not match up, and it is time Australians knew why.”

In 2008, the Rudd government announced $136 million of new funding to implement the world's leading practice system for organ donation in Australia, with a stated goal ‘to establish Australia as a world leader’ within 4 years.

Six years later, $250 million has been spent and Australia ranks 20th in the world, having only achieved 441 additional life-saving transplants. Had Australia reached the goal of leading performance, that number would be over 3,400.

“The discrepancies in approaches used in hospitals, as well as differing systems and performances in each state demonstrate that the consistent national system promised and funded in 2008 has not been implemented,” Mr Myerson continued.

“In 2008, federal funding was announced for medical professionals in hospitals dedicated to organ donation. Instead, what we have are more medical professionals in general rotation. Some of their time is allocated to organ donation, but they are not dedicated to it, as leading practice requires. This issue is exemplary of the cursory nature of what has been implemented and sold as reform.

“Over 1,000 Australians miss out on lifesaving transplants every year because of mismanagement and a failure of leadership at the national level. That’s around the same number of people who die on Australian roads each year.

“Australians, particularly those waiting for transplants, need to know that Australia’s low donation rate is not a result of people failing to discuss organ donation with their families. It is the system that is failing them. “Between 2012 and 2014, $90 million was spent to achieve 35 extra donors. Enough is enough. We cannot simply stand by as more money is thrown at a wasteful system.

“The resolution of this issue is simple and requires no further funds. The solution lies ensuring the funds already there are appropriately managed, and reform is driven from the national level. Thousands of Australians suffering from organ failure have waited long enough,” concluded Mr Myerson.

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