Initiatives increase donor referral rates, opportunities for families

Families are encouraged to talk about organ donation, declare intent using

March 14, 2017 – Winnipeg, MB – Efforts to ensure Manitoba families have the opportunity to consider organ donation have generated an increase in referrals to Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life, however, the number of families declining the offer remains the same.

“We continue to see on average 49% of families choosing to decline largely because they don’t know the wishes of their loved ones,” said Dr. Peter Nickerson, Medical Director, Transplant Manitoba. “The single biggest step to improving organ donation for Manitobans in need is for families to have the organ donation conversation before decisions have to be made. When families know their loved one wished to be a donor, 90% of families support that choice.”

To increase access to organ donation opportunities and to give more families the chance to honour the final wishes of a loved one, the Manitoba government implemented a policy in 2016 allowing organ donation after cardio-circulatory death (DCD) and continues to support, the provincial online registry that securely records the donation decisions of Manitobans.

“We want all Manitobans to have the opportunity to decide if organ and tissue donation is the right choice for them,” said Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen. “By offering DCD and ensuring the care team and the donation team work together, we are giving Manitobans the right support to decide if donation is an option.”

In 2014 a mandatory referral policy was introduced within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. It calls for all Winnipeg Intensive Care Units and Emergency Room Programs to contact the Gift of Life program after the decision has been made to withdraw life-support and only if the patient meets organ donation criteria. Since adopting the policy, the percentage of all potential donors actually referred has risen from 35.1% in 2014 to 74.3% in 2016.

“Our target is 90% and beyond and we are working hard with our hospital partners to achieve this goal,” said Dr. Adrian Robertson, Medical Director, Gift of Life Program, adding the improved referral rate continues to support the organ donation team meeting with families first and maintains the right of families to choose how the donation conversation will progress.

To keep the lines of communication open, the team’s specially trained nurse coordinators and physicians maintain regular contact with ICU and ER staff, provide ongoing education opportunities and progress reports.

In addition to these supports, the team continues to cultivate an environment that is positive for staff and families.

“Our team values the relationships that physicians and nurses have developed with families during this really difficult time,” said Dr. Robertson. “We all work in partnership so families have the opportunity to consider donation and through effective coordination and communication, we give family members the information they need to make informed decisions about organ donation.”