Manitoba's Kidney Transplant Program records best year yet

More Manitobans can embrace life thanks to an increase in living and deceased donors.

For the second year in a row, more Manitobans than ever before received a kidney transplant through Manitoba’s Kidney Transplant Program at HSC Winnipeg in 2017.

A record 77 Manitobans have the chance to live longer, healthier lives thanks to the generosity and compassion of donors, including 33 living kidney donors – the highest number of living donors the program has worked with to date.

“Transplanting a kidney has the potential to give someone a new lease on life and better health. Transplantation also means less money is needed for costly dialysis treatments,” said Dr. Peter Nickerson, Medical Director, Transplant Manitoba.

Compared to previous years, increased kidney transplants in 2016 and 2017 have avoided over $1 million worth of dialysis costs. By sustaining a rate of at least 70 kidney transplants in 2018, the cumulative projected cost avoidance will be over $4 million by 2019.

“The partnership between the Manitoba Renal Program and Transplant Manitoba is strong and continues to improve,” said Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen. “The teams are optimizing their practices and processes and are providing Manitobans with top-notch kidney care and access to transplantation services.”

With an increase in the number of donations and transplants, there has been corresponding support from many Winnipeg Regional Health Authority programs – Emergency Departments, Critical Care, Surgery, and Medicine.

“A successful donation and transplantation program requires the skills and expertise of highly trained medical staff, physicians and surgeons,” said Lori Lamont, Acting Chief Operating Officer and VP, Nursing and Health Professionals. “All of our teams work in concert with Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life to provide the best possible outcomes for patients and families.”

Manitoba stands out for 2017. At 57.55 kidney transplants per million population (KT pmp), Manitoba ranks fourth when compared to the 2016 world kidney transplant rates released by the International Registry in Organ Donation and Transplantation ( report in December 2017. Only Spain (64.31 KT pmp), the United States (62.56 KT pmp) and the Netherlands (58.30 KT pmp) were higher in 2016. This level of performance in Manitoba is due to the focus on optimizing both living and deceased organ donation.

In 2017, Manitoba’s living donor kidney transplant program stands out at 24.66 KT pmp – one of the best provincial living donor kidney transplant rates in Canada.

Deceased donations increased last year making 2017 the first time 20 Manitobans became organ donors. The number of referrals to the Gift of Life program is also increasing. Since the introduction of the mandatory referral policy in 2014, the percentage of all potential donors referred has consistently improved – 35.1% in 2014, 52% in 2015, 74.3% in 2016 and 83% in 2017.

“If someone meets the criteria for organ donation, we will be there for families to offer the information they need to support them in making the best decision for their family,” said Dr. Adrian Robertson, Medical Director, Gift of Life. “Compassionate end-of-life care and the opportunity for organ and tissue donation is every family’s right.”

To improve the number of families saying yes to organ donation and to learn about best practices, Reg Helwer, MLA for Brandon West, will be chairing an all-party standing committee on organ donation.

“Manitoba’s registration rate continues to climb on,” said Helwer. “However, we need to continue the conversation. Nearly 50% of families decline the offer of organ donation because they are unsure about the wishes of their loved one. When families are aware, over 90% honour the choice to donate.”