New unit on way to help boost organ donations
A NATIONAL unit dedicated to increasing the number of organ donations is finally being set up.
Several of the country's major hospitals had only one patient who became an organ donor last year, even though around 600 people are waiting on transplant lists.
Overall, the number of donors fell to a record low of 58 last year -- down from 90 in 2009.
The number of kidney transplants, in particular, sharply declined, forcing people to remain on dialysis treatment.
But the Health Service Executive (HSE) is now setting up a national donation and transplantation unit to increase the numbers of donors from hospitals.
Figures seen by the Irish Independent -- and detailed in today's 'Health and Living' section -- show there was just one deceased patient in each of Cork University Hospital, the Mater Hospital, Tallaght Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital whose heart, lungs, liver or other organs could be harvested and offered for transplant last year.
Beaumont Hospital had 14 donors. In 1999 it had 30.
It remains unclear how well staffed the long-awaited office will be, given the ongoing recruitment moratorium in the HSE, or how it will encourage more organ donation from hospitals.
The office is to be headed by Professor Jim Egan, who is consultant respiratory and transplant physician in the Mater Hospital.
Prof Egan admitted there was a need for organ donation and transplantation to be given a national focus and said the new office would help that happen.
"We need to enhance the number of organ donations as a national priority and ensure that those patients awaiting organ transplantation have the maximum opportunity of life-saving treatments," he said.
At present donor organs are only taken from people who are brain dead.
This sees the donor being supported by a ventilator until the donated organs have been retrieved.
This method has a greater success rate because the organs are maintained by oxygenated blood until removal.
It is estimated that around 600 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant, while in the region of 2,500 are enjoying a new lease of life after receiving a donation.