Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8535


Ms NEAL (11:56 AM) —I rise in the Main Committee today to speak on the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Bill 2008. Australians are a generous people, often prepared to assist with the medical treatment of others by the donation of blood and parts of the human body, with no personal reward except for the satisfaction of helping another. This is not the case in many other countries, where people making blood and other tissue donations do so on a commercial basis, being paid for the donation.

Despite the generosity of Australians in this regard, the level of organ donation is far below the level of some other countries and what would normally be expected in Australia. This indicates that the mechanisms for organ donation are not working properly and that this reform is needed to allow the normal instincts of the Australian community to be given effect to.

Organ donation is supported by more than 90 per cent of the Australian population, but this country has a chronic shortage of organs for transplant. There are currently 1,800 Australians waiting for an organ transplant. Last year, the 198 deceased organ donors, whose decision to donate their organs resulted in 657 transplant procedures, met only one-third of the demand.

The register of organ donation and transplantation has reported that in Australia in 2006 there were just 9.8 organ donors for every one million people. The donation rate in the USA is 2½ times that of Australia, and Spain’s donation rate is three times Australia’s rate. Thousands of Australians currently can wait on organ donation lists for months and sometimes even years. For these people, this represents a potentially devastating period of debilitating ill health and serious disruption to family and working life. For too many of these people, the availability or otherwise of organs for transplant can mean the difference between life and death.

Increasing the rate of organ donation has been an unachieved goal of Australian health policy for too long. Despite the good intentions and the overwhelming support of the Australian public for organ donation, there has been little national leadership in this field. This bill seeks to redress that lack of leadership. It will provide a comprehensive package for the organ and tissue sector that will enhance, implement and monitor national reform initiatives and programs aimed at increasing Australians’ access to life-saving and -transforming transplants.

The measures enabled by this bill will allocate $151.1 million over four years, including $136.4 million of new funding to establish the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority. The bill will target a number of specific areas of need in the organ donation and transplantation sector. It will provide $67 million to fund dedicated organ donation specialist doctors and other staff in public and private hospitals around Australia. There will be an additional $17 million in new funding for hospitals to meet the additional staffing, bed and infrastructure costs associated with organ donation. It will include $13.4 million, to continue national public awareness and education programs to increase knowledge about organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and to build public confidence in Australians donating for transplantation, and $1.9 million to support the families of deceased donors.

A national network of donation and transplantation agencies will be based in the states and territories to facilitate the donation process. This network will promote and ensure equitable, safe and transparent national transplantation processes to manage waiting lists and the allocation of donated organs. It will maintain a national eye and tissue donation network and will introduce living donation programs such as a paired kidney exchange. It will formulate national policies and protocols and will include working closely with peak clinical and professional organisations in the development of consistent clinical practice protocols and standards.

The Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority will also enhance the information available on the transplant of organs scheme by providing support for in-hospital practice improvements and education programs. They will manage an ongoing national community awareness and education program and disseminate information about organ or tissue donation and transplantation. A national data and reporting system will be introduced and managed.

The reforms contained in this bill have a proven track record of maximising donation rates. Similar models have been used in several comparable countries around the world. The experience from these countries shows clearly that such a coordinated and integrated national approach can work. When followed by nationally coordinated and sustained effort, this approach can, over time, deliver real improvements in organ donation and transplantation rates in Australia.

The Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority will be an independent agency managed by a CEO with direct accountability to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing. The CEO of the authority will advise the Minister for Health and Ageing about organ and tissue donation and transplantation and provide an annual report to the minister for presentation to the parliament. Expert advice will be provided to the CEO through a new Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Advisory Council that will comprise a chair and up to 15 members with expertise in a wide range of areas.

Australia’s population is ageing and, in the near future, it will experience higher incidences of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, with all their complications and adverse health effects. Chronic conditions such as kidney disease take a toll on thousands of individual Australians and their families and on the national health budget. One example will suffice to illustrate the high cost that we are paying for our currently inefficient system of organ and tissue donation. The cost for each person waiting for a kidney transplant is $83,000 per annum if they are receiving hospital based kidney dialysis. In contrast, the solution to that problem is far cheaper. The cost of a kidney transplant is just $65,000 per recipient for the first year, and an additional $11,000 per year thereafter. This is a net gain for the nation and a huge benefit for the thousands of individuals and their families suffering through long waits for organ transplants—let alone, of course, the personal suffering involved.

Lifting organ donor rates will help us build a more efficient health system and help sick Australians return to full participation in work and in the community. Above all, the reason why we must lift the number of organ donations is that, by doing this, we can help save and transform the lives of thousands of Australians who are suffering poor health. I commend the bill and I congratulate the opposition on their support for this bill.