Thursday, February 26, 2009

$151.1 million ($97.8 million U.S.) to reform organ donation in Australia

Prime Minister Kevin RuddPrime Minister Kevin Rudd launched Organ Donation Awareness week in Australia and announced a huge investment to improve the organ and tissue donation system in an effort to save lives. I am very impressed with the Prime Minister's leadership in this initiative, which indicates how important he believes this is to Australia. Plans to establish an independent national authority and the appointment of an advisory council that includes a broad spectrum of medical and legal professionals confirm this. His remarks follow.


I acknowledge the First Australians on whose land we meet and whose culture we celebrate as one of the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

If you have heard the stories of those who have suffered from chronic diseases, and been given the gift of life through a transplant –

Or if you have heard the stories of the families for whom a donor organ never arrived in time –

You can be in no doubt this is a cause that really matters.

It’s a cause worth fighting for.

There is no question that Australia delivers excellent clinical outcomes for transplant patients.

But our donor rates are too low.

And the Australian Government is determined to change that.

So that instead of lagging behind other nations, Australia can be a leader in organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

If you have any questions about how important this is, just look into the eyes of my 2 year old friend who is here today, Cordelia Whatman, the thankful recipient of a liver transplant.

Or her 4 year old sister, Octavia, who is nearly big enough and old enough to be made an ambassador for organ donor awareness.

Or speak to 8 year old Taleaha and 4 year old Rory here, whose mum Kylie is waiting for a double lung transplant.

Australia has a transplant waiting list of around 1,800 people.

That is 1,800 Cordelias and Kylies.

1,800 Australians for whom a transplant may be the difference between a normal, healthy life and debilitating chronic illness.

We’re here today for them – and for thousands more Australians, in the years ahead, whose lives will be changed by an organ or tissue transplant.

In July last year, I said national leadership to lift organ donation rates was long overdue.

I said it was time to end the blame game between different levels of government and different parts of the health system.

I said we needed to take action, and focus our efforts in the places where we can actually get results.

That is why the Government is investing an unprecedented $151.1 million over the next four years to reform the national organ and tissue donation system and save lives.

The plan was endorsed by all State and Territory governments on July 3 last year at the Council of Australian Governments meeting.

That plan centres on taking action where it matters most – in our hospitals.

The plan aims to ensure that:

  • potential donors are properly identified at hospitals across the country;

  • every family of a potential donor will be asked about organ donation;

  • a dedicated specialist will work with the potential donor and their family to provide support through what is often a very, very difficult process;

  • hospital staff will be able to focus on donor care knowing that the hospital has
  • a separate budget to cover organ and tissue donation;

  • families receive the support they need at the time of organ donation and afterwards; and

  • there will be an equitable and safe process for managing transplant waiting lists and allocating organs once they become available.

There are five components to the national plan I announced in July last year.

The first component is $46 million to introduce a coordinated, consistent approach under the leadership of a new, independent national authority—the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority.

The legislation for the new Authority went through Parliament last September, and it is now up and running.

It is led by Karen Murphy, an experienced CEO with a proven track record of successfully managing change in large organisations and working collaboratively across both the public and private sectors.

Under her leadership, the Authority is working quickly to build its capacity and implement this ambitious reform agenda.

Our plan also allocates $67 million to employ trained medical specialists and other staff dedicated to organ donation.

They will work closely with emergency department and intensive care unit teams in selected public and private hospitals across Australia.

The third element is $17 million in new funding for hospitals to meet additional staffing, bed and infrastructure costs associated with organ donation.

The fourth component is $13 million towards raising community awareness and building public confidence in Australia’s donation for a transplantation system.

The fifth component is funding of $2 million for counsellors to support donor families.

This is a comprehensive plan.

It tackles the point at which our organ donor system is currently failing - where we need dedicated staff in emergency wards and intensive care units, trained to help families through the difficult circumstances they confront just at the time when getting consent matters.

It was developed on the basis of evaluating international experience – evidence that highlighted the need for national leadership, and the need for dedicated specialist staff.

Today I announce the next step in implementing the national plan.

For the Authority’s efforts to be as successful as possible, it needs to get the best advice – both from within the medical community and from a wide range of community voices.

We know that we need to engage with the wider community so that more Australians understand just what a gift of life organ donation can be.
That is why we will establish an Advisory Council - to provide ongoing advice and input to the Authority.

The Advisory Council will consist of members selected on the basis of substantial experience or knowledge in at least one of the following fields:

  • organ or tissue donation and transplantation;

  • public administration;

  • business;

  • management;

  • finance and

  • health consumer issues.

I’m pleased today to announce that Sam Chisholm will chair the Advisory Council.

Sam Chisholm is one of the most experienced hands in the Australian business community – most famously as the Chief Executive and Managing Director who led the Nine Network through the many years when it dominated Australian television ratings.

If anybody knows how to get Australians to watch and listen, Sam does.

Sam is also the recipient of a double lung transplant in 2003.

He’s also been a director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

So he will bring to this role the same grit and passion he’s famously demonstrated throughout his professional life.

Sam will be supported by the following members of the Advisory Council:

  • Professor John Horvath AO, the Chief Medical Officer

  • Dr David Boadle, Tasmania’s Deputy Chief Health Officer

  • Prof Don Chalmers, Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Tasmania with expertise in health law and ethics

  • Ms Anne Cahill Lambert AM, a tireless advocate in this area waiting herself for a double lung transplant; also a former CEO of the Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators and former CEO of the Women’s Hospitals Australasia and the Children’s Hospitals Australasia

  • Professor Geoff Dobb, head of the Royal Perth Hospital’s Department of Intensive Care with expertise in brain death and organ donation

  • David Koch – Kochie has of course done a huge amount to promote donor awareness on the Sunrise program and brings business and financial expertise

  • Professor Jeremy Chapman OAM – one of Australia’s most highly experienced transplant specialists and a clinical professor at the University of Sydney

  • Mrs Rachel Martin, donor family member

  • Dr Marisa Herson, head of Victoria’s Donor Tissue Bank

  • Dr Anthony Cross, emergency physician and intensivist at the Box Hill Hospital

  • Dr Gerry O’Callaghan – Senior Consultant, Intensive and Critical Care, Flinders Medical Centre

  • Ms Amanda Rischbeith – National President of the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses

  • Dr Dianne Stephens OAM – Director of Intensive Care at the Royal Darwin Hospital

  • Professor Russell Strong AC – Medical Director, Queenslanders Donate

These members give the Council a tremendous depth of skill expertise ranging across critical care, transplantation, the medical and nursing professions, donor families, transplant recipients and those on the waiting list.

I want to thank each Council member for taking on this responsibility.

Your advice will be important to making the national plan successful.

Progress on the national plan is also advancing in other areas as the Authority begins taking the practical steps that will help get the results to which we are committed.

Health Ministers have agreed to the implementation of national ‘clinical triggers’ across all public and private hospital Emergency Departments and Intensive Care Units.

These clinical triggers will help clinicians on the ground to rapidly and accurately identify potential donors.

Consultations with the medical professions are now underway.

The Authority is also working to implement the new National Paired Kidney Exchange Program.

This will help link potential donors to recipients across the country, where a family member or friend who is willing to donate is not compatible.

The Organ Donor Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and get the message about Cordelia, Kylie and thousands of other Australians.

So I am pleased to launch this week’s efforts.

And I am particularly pleased to be launching the Terry Connolly ORGANised Walk that will set off at 7am tomorrow from Regatta Point.

This is a great initiative to encourage people to talk with their families about registering for organ donation.

Helen reminds me that it was Terry who, back in the 1980s while I was in China, made sure that my ALP party membership dues were processed and kept in order.

And it was also Terry who recruited the Deputy Prime Minister to the Labor Party on campus at the University of Adelaide in the 1970s.

We will be walking tomorrow in memory of Terry, and in support of increased donor awareness.

The success of this week’s efforts is important to increasing donor levels and achieving the vision that is behind Australia’s national plan for organ donation.

Let me finish with this appeal to all Australians.

Take action and have a meaningful and informed discussion with your family about your wishes in relation to organ and tissue donation.

If you are not now on the organ donor list, please think about it and get your name on to it.

And I appeal to the nation’s media: tell the stories of organ donation and the gift of life it can be.

These stories get people thinking and acting.

They really make a difference.

Each of us can play a role in this great cause.

And many Australians will enjoy happier, longer lives as a result.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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