The eye and tissue sector comprises eye and tissue banks across Australia. Banks collect tissue from deceased and living donors, then process and store the tissue for distribution to clinicians for transplantation and other surgical uses.
Australia’s eye and tissue banking sector operates across the public, not-for-profit and commercial sectors, funded from a range of private and state government sources. The public eye and tissue banks are the responsibility of each state and territory government. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provides overarching governance for the quality and safety of eye and tissue donation for transplantation for all banks. It is the shared responsibility of the banks, governments and the TGA to ensure that eye and tissue donations are undertaken in a safe, ethical, and responsible manner.
All eye and tissue banks are supported by DonateLife Network staff who play an important role in seeking family consent for deceased organ and tissue donation in hospitals. We continue to work with the eye and tissue sector through the Eye and Tissue Advisory Committee (ETAC), Clinical Governance Committee and other forums that are convened on a needs basis to focus on specific issues, as described below.
The Australian tissue sector played a key role in the response to the New Zealand White Island volcano disaster that occurred on 9 December 2019. This included supplying skin to New Zealand for the treatment of people who sustained severe burns in the disaster, and ongoing management of patients who were repatriated back to Australia. The New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland Tissue Banks worked closely together to monitor the levels of skin available to ensure there was adequate supply for the initial treatment and ongoing recovery for patients affected by the disaster. We supported the response by coordinating national communication across the sector and facilitating consultation with other federal government agencies and stakeholders, as required.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the supply and demand of eye and tissue services. The suspension and subsequent reduction in elective surgeries across Australia has resulted in decreased demand for tissue. We continue to facilitate national forums and collaboration between the eye and tissue banks and other key stakeholders to discuss the impacts and challenges of COVID-19, including discussions about the requirements for COVID-19 testing of eye and tissue donors, and resourcing impacts.
We have continued to work with the Commonwealth Department of Health and states and territories through the Jurisdictional Eye and Tissue Steering Committee, to support progression of the National Eye and Tissue Sector Policy Framework. The Department of Health is leading the development and implementation of the framework, which seeks to address recommendations in the 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Analysis of the Australian tissue sector.