'Hundreds' of organ donations being lost
By ALISON WISEMAN
MORE than 600 life-saving organ donations may be lost each year because staff at Hong Kong's public hospitals fail to identify potential donors, the Hospital Authority admitted yesterday.
Authority Deputy Director Dr Lawrence Lai Fook-ming estimated that between 50 and 60 people who died in each of the territory's 11 major hospitals every year were potential donors.
But the relatives of these would-be donors were not approached on the subject of organ donation despite there being between 700 and 1,000 patients with end-stage renal failure awaiting kidney transplants.
Almost every death in Hong Kong also has the potential to provide cornea donations for the 1,000 patients awaiting cornea transplants.
Dr Lai said: ''The present supply of cadaveric organs for transplantation is very limited and a constraining factor on organ donation is the awareness and understanding of health care workers of donation potential.'' The territory sees only three to 3.5 organ donations per million people each year resulting in about 20 cadaveric organ donations, although only about 200 families of dead relatives are approached on the subject each year.
But the 1992 census indicated that 30 per cent of people would be willing to donate their organs, while up to two-thirds of family members would not object to their relatives donating their organs.
A lack of awareness about organ donation among hospital staff and the small number of cadavers identified as potential donors has prompted the authority to concentrate on informing health care workers, as well as the public, for the first time in its Organ Donation Awareness Week, which starts on Sunday.
Posters, leaflets and stickers will be put up and distributed in hospitals urging staff to call one of the authority's four transplant co-ordinators when they spot a potential donor.
A transplant co-ordinator would then approach the dead person's family.
About 10 per cent of families approached by the transplant co-ordinators agree to allow their dead relative's organs to be used.
Dr Lai added: ''It follows that if we approach 1,000 families we will get 100 donors, and so on. If we ask more families we should get more donors.''