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"Disappointing year" for organ donations - just 63 in the whole of 2014

But there were a record number of heart transplants.

Image: Shutterstock/kikujungboy

ORGAN DONATION CONTINUES to be a rare event in Ireland, with 2014 seeing just 63 taking place after 2014’s roughly 30,000 deaths.

That is down from 86 last year.

2014 has been described as a disappointing one for organ donation and transplants, after a record year in 2013.

Preliminary figures suggest that there were 251 transplants in 2014, with declines in the number of kidney, liver and pancreas procedures.

The good news is that there was an increase in the number of heart transplants.

In total, 18 were carried out in 2014, the highest number in a decade.

The head of the office for Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland, Professor Jim Egan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that people should be aware of when organs can be donated.

“Public awareness of the benefits of organ donation is extremely important.

“Internationally, there is downward pressure on organ donation because of efforts to reduce strokes and car accidents. It’s a very rare event that someone might die in circumstances that allow organ donation.

“We’d ask people to discuss their wishes with their family.

“Life can be one’s legacy.”

He added five new organ donation co-ordinators were starting across the country this month, aping part of the Spanish system, widely regarded as the best in the world.

Kidney Association concerns

Mark Murphy Chief Executive, Irish Kidney Association, described 2014 as a “disappointing year” for those awaiting a deceased donor kidney transplant.

He said that the association is concerned that, for the second year in a row, the target of 50 living donor kidney transplants was not achieved despite the availability of the living donors and potential recipients.

The IKA also raised concern about the fact Beaumont Hospital has not commissioned an extra operation theatre and said it is now short of transplant surgeons.

The HSE said in response that regarding Beaumont, additional funding was provided in 2013 to appoint additional urology surgeons, and an additional transplant surgeon. It said there were no successful appointments.

When the posts were re-advertised as Category C consultants in 2014, two urologists were appointed, but no transplant surgeon.

In addition there are now two vacancies arising from the retirement and leave of absence of two consultant surgeons. The hospital is actively pursuing a number of options to augment the existing team. The appointment of additional urologists with sessional commitments to Connolly Hospital will enable the transplant surgeons to prioritise transplants.

It also said that there were challenges in securing specialist nursing staff, and it expects to have the full complement of staff in place by early this year.

It has also prioritised transplant services within the overall urological workload.

The IKA congratulated the Mater Hospital on a record number of transplants (49), 31 lungs and 18 hearts.

But it said that liver transplantation is down by 20% on the previous year (44) which the IKA says “must also be a concern for St Vincent’s Hospital’s patients”.

It said that the Organ Procurement Service’s transition period “gives us hope that in future years the organ donor rates for Ireland will be far better than they are now”.

The IKA also said that the commencement of an audit of organ donor activity inside the country’s intensive care facilities is essential.

Read: ‘Helen didn’t get lungs … but we’ll make sure other people get them because of her’

Read: ‘Organ donor cards don’t work anymore, we need a new approach’

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