Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said Monday he hopes the new SEND program will help train more physicians in the specifics around organ and tissue donations. (Advocate file photo)

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said Monday he hopes the new SEND program will help train more physicians in the specifics around organ and tissue donations. (Advocate file photo)

Alberta government hoping to improve organ donations through new program

Province kicked started new program to help modernize organ & tissue donations

A new provincial program will help save lives in Alberta.

Monday, the province announced a new $2 million Specialist in End-of-Life Care, Neuroprognostication and Donation (SEND) grant program with 22 specialist physicians coordinating organ donation and transplantation opportunities.

According to a release from the Alberta government, specialist physicians will be available 24-7 to improve the identification of potential donors, support families considering consent at a difficult time and save more lives.

One new SEND physician will work in Red Deer.

Prior to the SEND program, northern and southern Alberta each had a medical director who also functioned as donation specialist physicians. However, there were no dedicated donation physician positions for individual hospitals and intensive care units.

The SEND program delivers improved education for physicians, residents and other health-care providers regarding end-of-life care, neuroprognostication and organ and tissue donation, to help ensure opportunities for donation are not missed.

“Organ transplantation is life-saving and quality-of-life-enhancing for many Albertans with advanced kidney, liver, lung or heart disease. The main source of organs for transplantation is when critically ill patients and their families graciously offer to donate organs following death,” said Dr. Andreas Kramer, medical director, Southern Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Program, Alberta Health Services in a press release.

“In the midst of grief and tragedy, some deceased patients’ families find comfort knowing that something positive has come out of an otherwise devastating experience. The SEND program will promote excellence and growing expertise in care of potential donors. It is our hope that the program will help foster a strong culture of organ and tissue donation in Alberta.”

In a release, the province said Alberta’s organ donation rate has increased by 28 per cent from 2011, hundreds of Albertans are waiting for life-saving transplants.

As of April 25, more than 21 per cent (815,000) of adult Albertans have registered their wishes to become an organ and/or tissue donor after death.

Alberta had 16.8 deceased donors per million (dpm) in 2020, British Columbia had 21 dpm, Ontario had 21.3 dpm.

Alberta completed more than 400 organ transplants and more than 2,600 tissues were released for transplant or surgical reconstruction last year.

Albertans who are interested in becoming an organ and tissue donor can register their consent in one easy step at ultimategiftalberta.ca or in person at an Alberta registry office.