CCP Virus Pandemic Restricts Organ Transplants in Australia

January 31, 2021 Updated: January 31, 2021

Australia saw fewer organ donations and transplants in 2020 than the previous year due to the impact of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

According to 2020 data revealed by the Commonwealth’s Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) there was a 12 percent decrease in the number of people receiving a transplant and a 16 percent decrease in the number of donors compared to 2019.

“Most significantly, 18 percent fewer kidney transplants were performed, resulting in 153 fewer renal patients receiving the kidney transplant they need, “Mark Coulton, the federal minister responsible for the OTA, said.

The transplant sector took precautionary measures at the start of the pandemic and suspended the adult kidney and pancreas transplant programs from late-March to mid-May.

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A sign directing people to the COVID-19 screening area is posted outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne, Australia on March 11, 2020. (Luis Ascui/Getty Images)

“This was due to the concern about hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and also to prevent transplant patients at high risk being exposed to the virus,” the OTA said in a media release on Feb. 1.

But despite the impact of the pandemic had on the transplant procedures, 1270 Australians still managed to receive organs from 463 deceased donors, OTA also revealed.

“These results exceed earlier predictions and are a reflection of the resilience of our DonateLife teams,” OTA said.

Life-saving heart, liver, lung, and paediatric transplants continued for high-risk patients throughout the pandemic.  Transplant numbers also began to increase as centres began to reopen across Australia on a case by case basis.

The OTA thanked its DonateLife teams who are embedded in hospitals around the country for carrying out lifesaving work amid the logistical challenges faced by hospitals due to flight reductions and border closures.

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Patients with kidney failure undergo dialysis while waiting for transplants, March 12, 2009 Manila, Phillippines. (Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)

“These teams went above and beyond to navigate the challenges facing hospitals and logistics—including with COVID-19 restrictions, flight reductions and border closures—so that patients received the best possible outcomes,” the OTA said.

Australia’s donation rate has doubled over the past decade, but Coulton pleaded for more people to add themselves to the register of organ donors.

“Australians from all walks of life faced great challenges and adversity in 2020, and those waiting for life-changing organ transplants were no different,” he said. “Around 1650 Australians are waitlisted for a transplant, and more than 12,000 others are on dialysis—many of whom may need a kidney transplant.”

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