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Govt wants ‘friendly rivalry’ in organ donation

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Hospitals will come under pressure to disclose organ donation rates and ensure more staff are trained in discussing the issue with distressed families, as part of changes to organ donor arrangements announced by the Federal Government.

In its long-awaited response to an independent review of the Government-funded Organ Tissue and Donor Authority (OTDA), the Government did not adopt suggestions the country move to an opt-out system for donors.

Instead, Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash announced the establishment of a one-step online registration process for organ donors, the publication of hospital by hospital and State by State donor data, and the automation of a nationwide organ-matching system.

“Almost all Australians would like to be able to receive a donated organ themselves to save their life, or for their child or parent…yet the vast majority are not registered as organ donors,” Senator Nash said. “If we increase the number of registered organ donors, we will save more lives. I look forward to fostering a friendly rivalry between states and hospitals as to who has the better organ donation rate.”

The Government aims to achieve a deceased organ donor rate of 25 per million by 2018, a major jump from the current rate of 16 per million.

Senator Nash commissioned the review last year amid dissatisfaction with the rate of progress in boosting the donor rate.

But the decision was heavily criticised by television personality David Koch, who quit his position as Chair of the OTDA’s Advisory Council live on air in protest at not being consulted over the decision.

The Ernst and Young review partially vindicated the Authority, finding that its strategy to boost donor rates was “sound”. But it added there was “significant room for improvement” if there was effective national implementation and monitoring.

The review found that the OTDA lacked effective oversight, and recommended the appointment of a new Board of Governance to strengthen accountability – advice the Government has adopted.

Senator Nash said that, combined with easier online registration, targeted hospital improvement, better donor and recipient matching and greater transparency over donation rates by hospital and State, would boost donation rates.

Adrian Rollins