The Kevin Rudd Government in Australia has proposed a major new national reform package to strengthen the organ donation process. Though more than 90% of Australians support the idea of organ donation, the country has a longstanding shortage of organs for transplantation.
To address this, the Government proposes a total Commonwealth funding package of $151.1 million, including new funding of $136.4 million over four years to boost the number of life-saving organ transplants for Australians.
This is an important development for the 1,800 Australians on transplant waiting lists, the government said.
The key features of the reform package include: $67 million
to fund dedicated organ donation specialist doctors and other staff in public and private hospitals; $46 million
to establish a new independent national authority to coordinate national organ donation initiatives. $17 million
in new funding for hospitals to meet additional staffing, bed and infrastructure costs associated with organ donation. $13.4 million
to continue national public awareness and education; $1.9 million
for counselling for potential donor families; and
Other significant measures including enhanced professional education programs, consistent clinical protocols, 'clinical trigger' checklists and data collection for organ transplants in hospitals.
As Australia's population ages and more Australians are affected by lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes, the demand for transplants will continue to grow.
The package developed has drawn together the best international evidence and practice, as well as the expertise of stakeholders such as the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Cognate Committee on Organ and Tissue Donation, and ShareLife, it has been claimed.
The package does not change the framework of legal consent for donation. The families of all potential donors will be supported to make the choice of whether to donate at what is a very difficult time.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he was compelled to act after a personal experience with donation. "I'm the beneficiary in terms of tissue donation - I have an aortic valve transplant, I had one years ago," he said. "I can't sit around and say well, 'I don't care about the rest of you'. My response, particularly when this was raised at the 2020 summit, is let's get on with it."
Rudd says it has been a challenge for hospitals to make organ donation a high priority in their daily work. "You need a dedicated capacity within hospitals, with specifically allocated medical staff and nursing staff with appropriate counselling support to make sure this happens," he said.
"Rather than just buck-pass this between the two levels of government, we've just said enough is enough - here is the calculation of what is needed, here is the funding for the staff that is necessary at this period of time and we intend to get on with it."
Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the package will turn the huge public support for organ donation into results. "We know that it is difficult for hospital staff to talk to families about organ donation when their primary job is to try to save lives," she said. "We need dedicated, separate, professional staff who can approach the families in a sensitive way with proper training, and this package will allow for all of those things to happen."
A new national organ donation and transplantation authority would be set up by 1 January 2009 to drive and oversee a comprehensive set of reforms outlined in the attached fact sheets.
The reform package will be proposed to the States and Territories at Council of Australian Governments' meeting Thursday.