Canada is launching an ambitious multimillion dollar programme to enable patients requiring organ donation to quickly track down donors from across the country.
Canadian Blood Services announced Tuesday that provincial and territorial health ministers have expanded the agency's mandate from blood to organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Federal, provincial and territorial governments are contributing $35 million over the next five years to fund the program.
It's hoped that the new system will lead to fair allocation of organs to those who need them most and save lives, said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical advisor to the Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Donation Program.
"It's a complex system that will take some time to change," Beed told CBC News on Wednesday. "But I'm very optimistic that in a three- to five-year timeline, things will absolutely be better."
The new system will raise standards and encourage more education among health care providers and the public, he added.
Canada is unable to keep pace with the demand for organs. Unlike other developed countries, it has lacked a national transplant system, which resulted in wildly varying rates of organ donation between provinces.
On Dec. 31, 2007, 4,195 Canadians were on wait-lists for organ transplants. In the same year, 193 Canadians died waiting for an organ transplant, according to Ottawa-based Canadian Blood Services.
Under the new system, provincial transplant agencies will collaborate to match patients and donors across Canada more quickly.
The registries will include:
• Patients urgently needing organs.
• Those seeking kidneys or lungs from living donors.
• People who wish to donate organs when they die.
All provinces and territories have signed onto the new national system, with the exception of Quebec, which has its own provincial agency.