A national strategy to lift the rate of organ donation in New Zealand has been launched today.
A record number of organ donations were carried out last year, with 61 deceased donors providing 181 organs to be transplanted but more are still needed.
The Deceased Organ Donation and Transplantation National Strategy was launched by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman at Auckland City Hospital this afternoon.
The strategy's key priorities were to further increase public awareness of organ donation; make it easier for people to register, update and share their wish to donate with family and clinicians; increase the hospital-based capacity for deceased organ donation to take place; train intensive care staff to discuss the organ donation process and establish a national agency to lead the implementation of the strategy.
"To support this we're investing $500,000 in 2017/2018 to increase specialist medical and nursing organ donation capability within some ICUs," Coleman said.
"Organ transplantation is a life-saving treatment that is often the best, or only, option for people with organ failure. It can not only improve a person's quality of life, but also their life expectancy."
New Zealand's rate of deceased organ donation was 11.7 per million people last year compared to Australia's rate of 15.5, the UK's rate of 12 and Spain's rate of 40 per million people.
Auckland City Hospital director of abdominal transplant services Professor Stephen Munn said there was always a need for more organs.
The 500 New Zealanders waiting for a kidney transplant and the 20 to 30 waiting for a liver were proof there was a "shortage of organs for transplant", he said.
In New Zealand at the moment about 10 per cent of people waiting for a liver would die before they were able to get one, he said.
He believed the strategy was targeting the right areas to encourage more donors and increase the medical capacity for transplants.
A national agency to oversee all the donations and transplants was a positive move, he said.
Coleman said the strategy complemented the Government's recent initiative to increase transplants through increasing live organ donations.
"Budget 2017 committed $700,000 a year to help remove the financial deterrent to becoming a live organ donor," he said.
"The Compensation for Live Organ Donors Act, brought by MP Chris Bishop, will come into force by 5 December 2017.
"It means people who donate a kidney or part of a liver will be eligible for 100 per cent loss of earnings compensation for up to 12 weeks from surgery while they recover."
'New life' for kidney recipient
A month ago Sandhiya Mani's life was saved by a generous donor and since then her whole family have decided to register themselves as donors.
For a couple of years the mother of two's kidneys had not been working properly. Medicines did not work, so six months ago she started peritoneal dialysis four times a day at home.
Peritoneal dialysis is a type of dialysis that uses the peritoneum in a person's abdomen as the membrane through which fluid and dissolved substances are exchanged with the blood.
The dialysis was hard on her family because it took four to six hours out of every day.
It was also difficult for her six and seven year-old children to grasp. "They would say, 'Mum, are we going to lose you?' And as a mother you don't have an answer for them."
Then one day she got a call saying she needed to come to hospital because there was a kidney from a deceased donor for her.
She had the transplant a month ago and life is now back to normal.
"That changed my life," she said. "I thank the donor who has given me this organ and has given me new life."
She said she was very thankful to the family who allowed the organs to be donated and she now encourages people to become donors.
"All my family are changing to be organ donors. They have seen the change this has given me."