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Tissue Authority grows an organ

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Federal Government legislation to overhaul the nation’s organ donation strategy is due to be introduced to Parliament.

A Bill to change the governance arrangements of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority by appointing a Board of Governance to “operate alongside a Chief Executive Officer” is slated for debate in the Spring session.

The legislation follows the Government’s decision to implement several of the recommendations of a review it commissioned into the nation’s organ donation strategy, including the operation of the Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA).

Then Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash commissioned the review citing dissatisfaction with the Authority’s progress in lifting the nation’s organ donation rate, currently around 16 donors per million.

Though the rate was a substantial improvement from the 10 per million when the Authority was established in 2009, the review found the OTA suffered from several failings of governance, including that its advisory council did not provide any strategic oversight, performance monitoring, succession planning or CEO mentoring.

The announcement of the review prompted the Chair of the advisory council, television presenter David Koch, to resign in disgust, blaming the “tripe dished out by a whole bunch of rich lobbyists”, and calling on Senator Nash to “get a backbone”.

Releasing the findings of the review early this year, Senator Nash said the Government accepted a recommendation for the appointment of a Board of Governance to “provide stronger oversight and support for the work of the…Authority”.

“Further, the report notes ‘defensiveness’ in the sector and calls for ‘open and transparent dialogue’,” Minister Nash said at the time. “I hope more transparency helps foster open dialogue. However, let me be clear: I’m not interested in personalities. I’m interested in saving lives through organ donation.”

In its 2016-17 Budget, the Government reaffirmed the OTA’s goal to lift the organ donation rate to 25 per million by 2018, including by having trained donation specialists on hand to talk with the families of potential donors, and fostering interstate cooperation, including between hospitals and practitioners.

These efforts would be supplemented by the establishment of a one-step online registration process for donors, the automation of a nationwide organ matching system and the publication of donor data State-by-State and hospital-by-hospital.

Adrian Rollins