by Kate Hagan | The Age, Australia
PATIENTS will die waiting unless more resources are provided to hospitals to perform organ transplants, a kidney advocacy group has warned.
A day after The Age reported that measures to increase organ donations and transplants in Victoria were being frustrated by under-resourcing in hospitals, authorities admitted that more could be done.
A spokesman for the federal government's organ and tissue authority said a $151 million package announced in 2008 had already achieved large increases in transplants across Australia.
But there was potential for more to be done and state health ministers had committed in February to extra funding to match donations.
The alarm on issue was raised by Victoria's medical director of organ and tissue donation, Helen Opdam, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry. Yesterday she said it was important that people continue to nominate as potential donors.
''There is more we can do and there is obviously potential for stresses in the system if we don't resource and organise the system properly,'' Dr Opdam said.
Kidney Health Australia chief executive Anne Wilson said lives were at stake. ''If we don't pay attention to these systemic issues in our hospitals and to issues of capacity and resourcing more people are going to die,'' she said. ''The hospitals are saying they are at capacity right now … in order to do more transplants they need more beds, more staff, more everything.''
About 1700 Australians are on the transplant waiting list, including 1200 needing kidneys.
Victorian Health Minister David Davis said health services had been ''badly planned for a long time'' and ''their capacity to meet increased demand now needs to be carefully assessed''.
Mr Davis said the new government had provided $2.7 million this year to increase transplants but the current parliamentary inquiry into the issue would provide advice on meeting future demand.
AMA Victoria president Harry Hemley said the cost of keeping people on dialysis while waiting for kidney transplants was enormous. ''There are huge savings to be made and hospitals have to be funded to do it,'' he said. ''We have to set up infrastructure to allow this to happen. What's the point of having all these organ donors if we don't have the infrastructure to support it?''
Ian Fraser, nephrologist with the Epworth and Royal Melbourne hospitals, said increased donations meant transplant units had become busier, but were having to cope with the same level of resources.
''Any further increase [in organ donations] would need a considerable increase in resources and that applies to kidney, lung and all organ transplants,'' Dr Fraser said.