Facing a 40 per cent reduction in organ and tissue donors over the last decade, the province is making it easier for Albertans to sign up to become donors with a new online registry.
The Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry at MyHealth.Alberta.ca allows Albertans to give their consent to donate organs and/or tissues when they die. People just need to fill in their name, gender, birth date and Alberta Personal Health Number, what organs and tissues they want to donate and decide how those can be used. They can either mail or fax a copy of their signed, dated and witnessed donation consent form to Alberta Health.
“Sadly, over the last few years we’ve actually seen the rate of organ and tissue donation in Alberta decline to a point that it’s caused a number of people concern, most importantly those of our fellow citizens waiting for an organ or tissue transplant,” Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said on Tuesday.
Fewer than 40 people provincewide will be donors this year, based on current trends, he said.
“With more than 500 or our fellow Albertans waiting for the gift of a life-saving organ, the importance of that choice has never been more clear.”
Those on waiting lists include 23 patients waiting for a heart transplant, 67 patients who need a single or double lung transplant, 106 waiting for a liver transplant and 309 who require a kidney.
“Even more are waiting for corneas, skin, heart valves and other tissues to vastly improve their quality of life, and in many cases save their lives,” Horne said.
One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 75 other people.
“We know that online registries contribute to increased donation rates in provinces that have them. We are very confident our province will have the same experience. In Ontario, they currently have 18 donors per million people. B.C. has 15.”
Right now, fewer than 10 people out of every million Albertans donates organs or tissue, he said.
Late last year, Alberta began importing cornea tissue from eye banks across Canada and the United States to reduce the wait time for cornea transplants. At an average of two years, Albertans had the longest surgery wait time in the country.
In 2013, 115 cornea transplants were done in Alberta, but so far in 2014 there have been 150.
Horne said importing corneas was a good solution at the time but the best solution is to increase donor rates at home.
By next year, a single agency will co-ordinate organ and tissue donation across Alberta. The Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency will manage the registry, encourage its use and monitor and report on Alberta’s performance in organ and tissue donation. It will co-ordinate and support the work of donation organizations, promote public awareness, and work with Alberta Health Services and health professional associations.
Albertans can still make their wishes to become a donor known when they renew their driver’s licence or other identification. A symbol on their licence or card will show they are a donor.
Those who register are strongly encouraged to talk to their families about their wishes.