Number of lifesaving organs for transplants plummets
THE number of donor organs available for lifesaving transplants has fallen dramatically this year, leaving hundreds of patients on waiting lists, the Irish Independent has learnt.
It is expected that the amount of donors -- from whom various organs are harvested -- will plummet to just 60 or fewer.
This contrasts with 90 donors in 2009 -- which was also relatively low compared to other years.
Organs such as a heart, kidneys or lungs can be removed from one donor and transplanted into several patients.
No obvious reason has emerged for the worrying drop but it may be linked to the workload on staff in intensive care units who could be too busy to approach relatives of patients.
Mark Murphy, head of the Irish Kidney Association, which oversees donations of all organs, said the final figure may be even less than 60 donors this year.
There are 551 patients waiting for kidney transplants and around 50 of these will have to continue on dialysis.
"We will need the equivalent of a whole extra dialysis unit for next year on top of our 5-8pc growth in new patients who need the treatment because of diabetes," Mr Murphy said.
Improved road safety does not explain the fall-off in the number of donor organs available as only around 10pc of the organs come from traffic accident victims.
Mr Murphy said he believed one reason could be the workload in intensive care units.
"I believe it may be due to a general issue in the health service where people have lost a percentage of their wages. Managing donors is not part of their job description and they may be doing two people's work.
"It may be one of the reasons for the inability to turn potential organ donors into actual organ donors."
He added that many countries nowadays were not reliant only on organs from people who suffered brain-stem death.
"In the UK, they are using cardiac death donors. There is nothing stopping us. The evidence is that a cardiac death donor is every bit as good as a brain-stem death donor for kidney transplant patients."
The most recent figures show that 53 people are on the waiting list for lung transplants and 15 are in line for a heart transplant. There are 18 people in need of a new liver in St Vincent's Hospital.
The figures come as the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association celebrates the 25th anniversary tomorrow of the first heart transplant in Ireland.