The rate of new registrations for organ donation has reached record levels, with 87 per cent year-on-year growth in Australians signing up as an organ donor.
Data released today reveals a substantial increase in new registrations on the Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR), in a report that also outlines the ongoing impact COVID-19 has had on donation and transplantation rates.
Minister responsible for the Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA), Dr David Gillespie released the 2021 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report, confirming that despite a further drop in donation and transplantation rates last year, public support for donation is increasing.
“We saw 350,000 more Aussies getting behind organ and tissue donation in 2021, registering to be donors at a rate never seen before,” Dr Gillespie said.
“It’s heart-warming to see that even during the toughest of times, Australians understand the importance of donation and have joined the 7 million other Australians on the AODR.”
“Importantly, 1,174 Australian lives were saved in 2021 through an organ transplant, due to the generosity of 421 deceased organ donors and their families.”
Dr Gillespie said that while record-breaking new registrations were a step in the right direction, the strain that COVID-19 has put on the Australian healthcare system continues to be felt.
There was a nine per cent decrease in the number of organ donors and a seven per cent decrease in the number of people who received a transplant during 2021, compared to 2020.
Overall, this equates to a 25 per cent drop in donation and transplantation activity from pre-COVID levels seen in 2019 and is consistent with the experience of comparable countries like the UK and Canada.
“Despite the drop, donation and transplants continued throughout the year, which is testament to a highly skilled workforce of doctors and nurses who helped to minimise risk,” Dr Gillespie said
“Australian DonateLife teams worked with transplant teams to navigate the challenges created by COVID-19 — including pressures on hospitals, staff impacts, restricted family visits in hospitals, and logistics impacting the national program, such as flight reductions and border closures.
Dr Gillespie said there were 200 people who received a kidney from a living donor in 2021, more than 2,400 people with restored eyesight through a corneal transplant, and over 10,000 people who received tissue (e.g. musculoskeletal, heart, skin) transplants – all thanks to the life-changing gift of donation.
“I would like to acknowledge all donors and express heartfelt thanks to families who say “yes” to organ donation and give the gift of life to others,” Dr Gillespie said.
“There are around 1,850 Australians who are waitlisted for an organ transplant and an additional 13,000 people on dialysis – some who may need a kidney transplant one day.
“The best chance we have to address the challenge of the longer waitlist is to have more Australians say “yes” to donation – both yes to registering and yes in the hospital if there is the opportunity to donate.”
Data shows that nine out of 10 families consent to donation if their loved one is registered, but this drops to 4 out of 10 if they don’t know what their what they wanted.
Registering to be an organ and tissue donor is easy. You just need your phone, Medicare card and one minute. Head to donatelife.gov.au or you can join through the Express Plus Medicare app when you download your COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The report is available at the above link.