It is with pleasure that I provide an overview of our achievements and outcomes of the past year.
The 2018–19 year was my first full year as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of this wonderful organisation. As I sit down to write this, I have been reflecting on the past 12 months. We have continued to see significant growth in organ and tissue donation and transplantation outcomes since the national program commenced, and our 2018 outcomes are results to be commended.
In January 2019 we announced Australia had recorded a major increase in life-saving andlife-changing organ donations and transplants for 2018, following a record increase in the number of families agreeing to donation. It is great to see more Australians are saying ‘yes’ to donation. There is no greater gift than the gift of life.
Looking back over the 10 years since the national program started, organ donation has more than doubled, saving almost twice the number of people through transplantation. These achievements are a tribute to the dedicated donation and transplantation staff delivering the national program. This commitment and dedication demonstrated across both our clinical and community sectors makes the work we do possible.
Working to further enhance our national program
In March 2019 we hosted the Donation and Transplantation Conference. Medical and nursing specialists heard international and Australian perspectives on best-practice organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and what can be expected in clinical and technological advances. A key part of the discussions was expanding boundaries in transplantation, and increasing the donor pool to include older and marginal donors, while ensuring patients have the best outcomes.
We continued to focus our attention on DonateLife hospital performance and data. The participation of a donation specialist in family donation conversations is a key hospital-level performance indicator under the Clinical Practice Improvement Program (CPIP). In 2018 we worked to enhance the reporting of clinical process metrics identified under the CPIP Phase 3, including referral of all patients with planned end of life in intensive care units and emergency departments. We will report the first year of data in 2019.
The DLN donation specialist staff are our key means to normalising organ and tissue donation as a routine part of end-of-life care in hospital. Their professional education has consistently been an important priority for the OTA. During 2018–19, through the DLN, we continued to deliver a national education program to health professionals, including intensive care specialists and nurses, to ensure they are trained to support families in making an informed decision about donation.
In 2018–19 we worked closely with the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and the wider transplantation sector to enhance systems and policies to optimise the use of all available organs for transplantation. A highlight was successfully launching OrganMatch on 2 April. This is a state-of-the-art software system to facilitate the optimal matching of donor organs to transplant recipients and drive clinical best practice for wait-listing, organ offer, immunological matching and allocation. This has been a huge project for the OTA in collaboration with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and it is fantastic that we have delivered the system.
This significant project is the result of a commitment by the Australian Government in 2015 to replace the ageing National Organ Matching System (NOMS). I would like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the dedicated NOMS team which, for the past 20 years, has successfully serviced our donation and transplantation sector. A special acknowledgment goes to Professor Jeremy Chapman AC who was instrumental in establishing the first systems to assist in the management of donated organs for transplantation. This started with the National Kidney Matching System (NKMS) in 1989, followed by the replacement system, NOMS, in 1999. OrganMatch has been a successful and collaborative project, with special thanks to the significant work that has been undertaken and the valuable contribution from our clinical sector and subject matter experts.
I am pleased that we have put the processes in place to expand the Australian Paired Kidney Exchange (AKX) Program to include New Zealand in 2019. The AKX Program increases living donor kidney transplants by identifying matches for patients who are eligible for a kidney transplant, and have a living donor who is willing but unable to donate because of an incompatible blood type or tissue type. We have been working with the New Zealand Ministry of Health and clinicians from the AKX and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange Programs on a collaboration to include New Zealand pairs, creating the Australian and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange (ANZKX) Program. This will result in a larger combined pool of incompatible donor/recipient pairs from which compatible matches can be identified, and will increase live donor kidney transplants in both countries.
In 2018 I had the privilege of spending time in Barcelona, hosted by the Transplant Procurement Management and Donation and Transplantation Institute team. It was an incredibly valuable and insightful experience visiting two major hospitals and meeting their donation teams. I also spent time at the Catalan Transplant Organisation, their regional coordination centre. The Spanish system was established 30 years ago and leads the world in donation and transplantation rates. My visit reaffirmed how well Australia is doing in its first decade with a nationally coordinated program that is appropriate for our country and culture, and how valuable it is to engage with international colleagues and learn from their experience. Our national program continues to be informed by international best practice adapted to the Australian clinical setting. I also attended the Transplantation Society Congress in Madrid with our National Medical Director, Dr Helen Opdam. It was fantastic to hear how respected Australia is internationally, recognising how far we have come in a relatively short time, and acknowledging the significant work of Helen in Australia’s clinical system and building our international reputation.
Working with the community
Our community engagement focus aims to build on the high level of public support for organ and tissue donation, encouraging all Australians to register to be an organ and/or tissue donor, and to talk about it with their family. We know that one of the main reasons that families decline donation is because they simply do not know what their loved one wanted. Families that have talked about donation, and know if their loved one wants to be a donor, almost always say ‘yes’ to donation.
DonateLife Week, our national awareness week to promote organ and tissue donation, was another success, with activities across all of Australia. We partnered for a second year with the Australian Football League (AFL) and the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) to promote community awareness, registration and the importance of talking about donation. These partnerships provided a high audience reach for our key messages. In 2018 we also launched a partnership with Tonic Health Media to bring the organ and tissue donation message to millions of Australians through promotion in more than 1,650 GP clinic waiting rooms and 300 pharmacies across the country. We also provided GP information kits to 3,600 practices across Australia, with the potential to reach 16,000 GPs.
Looking at better ways to collaborate with the community sector, we established a Community Engagement Group with representatives from key stakeholder and community groups. The purpose of the group is to foster ongoing collaboration with members to inform our community engagement activities. It is essential to have community perspective on relevant issues, emerging trends, and opportunities. We had a very successful first meeting in February 2019 and I want to thank the members for their input into the DonateLife Week 2019 theme and their ongoing dedication to donation and transplantation. I look forward to working closely with the group over the following year.
I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated staff of the OTA, including the OTA Board and my Executive Leadership Team for the support they have provided to me during the year.
I also want to acknowledge the amazing work of the DonateLife Network who work hand in hand with us to deliver our program. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Robyn Scott, Kylie Downes and Dr Bruce Powell who left the DonateLife Network leadership team in 2018–19 after a number of years of delivering the national program in their jurisdictions. Thank you for your commitment and significant contribution in increasing organ and tissue donation in Australia.
It is an honour to lead an agency which is widely respected and to work alongside colleagues of such experience and skill. It is your commitment that has delivered our results for 2018 and changed the lives of so many Australians.
Most importantly, these results are due to those Australians who have made the generous decision for themselves or their loved ones to become an organ and tissue donor. Donation is only possible through the generosity of donors and their families who save and transform the lives of others through the gift of donation. This act of generosity has a profound impact on the Australians who receive a transplant, as well as their families and friends.
I am excited about 2019 with the opportunity it brings for the OTA to be a key contributor to implementing the National Policy Framework for the Eye and Tissue Sector and developing the next decade's strategy for the donation, retrieval and transplantation system in Australia. Our focus remains on normalising donation in Australia so more people in our community can benefit from a life-saving or transforming transplant. I am looking forward to the year ahead and the challenges and opportunities it may bring for the OTA.
Chief Executive Officer