A Quebec team of hospitals, including the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), was recently rated the top 12 at increasing the organ donation rate. This is a first for the Quebec team and for Canada. This rating is given by the U.S. Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative (ODBC) and signifies how successful health centres are at identifying potential donors and optimizing the donation process.
"Just signing your organ donor card could save seven lives," says Lisa Goulet, Nurse Clinician of Organ Donation for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and member of the Quebec Organ Donation Team. "Organ transplantation is fantastically successful. Heart, lung, liver, kidney or pancreas transplants can give recipients another chance at life. The problem is, there aren't nearly enough organs to meet current needs."
To study best practices in organ procurement, a team from three Quebec hospitals (MUHC, L'hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal and CHA - l'hôpital de l'Enfant Jésus) and the provincial procurement organization Quebec Transplant joined the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative (ODBC) in late 2003. This major U.S. initiative brought together more than 50 U.S. teams to identify ways to increase access to transplantable organs. The Quebec team is the only Canadian participant.
"Quebec hospitals have improved organ donation rates," says Ms. Goulet. "We are pleased with our ODB, but we still have some way to go."
At the moment, over 1,000 people in Quebec are awaiting organ transplants. Last year, 169 potential donors were identified. Of these, 142 donated one or more organs, according to Mance Cleroux, Executive Director of Quebec Transplant, the organization responsible for coordinating and promoting organ donation in Quebec. "We funded the Quebec team's participation in ODBC to help team members find better ways to increase organ donations," she says.
Only about three percent of people who die each year are potential donors. Using best practices, hospitals can achieve a donation rate of 75 percent. Achieving this rate across the province is the goal of the Quebec team.
"Membership in ODBC keeps us abreast of best practices in organ procurement," says Ms. Goulet. "It brings us into contact with experts from across North America who share information, statistics and tools with us. Plus, it gives us Internet access to other teams' data. When we have questions, we can get answers quickly."
Obtaining consent for organ and tissue donation is a sensitive task, which requires skill and training. "There's a right way to present the option to families for organ donations," says Ms. Goulet. "Thanks to our ODBC membership, we're able to discuss and share the optimal approaches while meeting grieving families' needs.
"Families need to decide about organ donation while they're in good health," she adds. "They shouldn't wait until there's a medical crisis. Most of all, they should realize that their decision could save lives. That's really what it's all about - saving lives."