Hong Kong Eye Hospital sets sights on boosting number of cornea transplants by 25 per cent

Only hospital in city running an eye bank adds staff as it now has 400 patients who typically wait one to two years for the donated organ

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 3:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 7:43pm

The Hong Kong Eye Hospital will hire four additional staff members for its eye cornea donation team in the hopes of boosting transplant cases by 25 per cent, a top hospital official said.

The public hospital, which runs the city’s only eye bank, currently has a 15-member team responsible for coordinating cornea donations for some 400 eye patients. Of the four new positions, two are for eye coordinators and two for eye technicians.

The hospital’s deputy chief Dr Lam Nai-man said the hospital hoped to boost its total number of cornea transplantations by 25 per cent. He noted that when the team asked relatives to consider making a donation, around 30 per cent agreed to do so.

Usually relatives of deceased patients are more willing to donate corneas compared to other vital organs whose procedures are invasive
Dr Lam Nai-man, Hong Kong Eye Hospital

“Usually relatives of deceased patients are more willing to donate corneas compared to other vital organs whose procedures are invasive,” Lam said.

But he noted donated corneas had to be harvested within 12 hours after a donor’s death and that sometimes the team missed this small window when manpower was insufficient.

Some 248 cornea transplantations took place last year, with patients typically waiting one to two years for the organ.

The city’s overall organ donation rate last year was 5.8 per one million people – the lowest rate in the developed world.

A woman who asked only to be identified as Susanna said last year her brother, 65, died of a heart attack and that his donated corneas helped two patients regain their eyesight.

“It is a very meaningful thing,” she said of her brother’s donation. “Even if my brother is not here, a part of him can help others.”

Meanwhile, the Kowloon Central Cluster, to which the Eye Hospital belongs, is to add 24 orthopaedic beds to its emergency wards this year in response to rising demand.

But the group chief executive Dr Albert Lo Chi-yuen said it still lacked around 30 doctors, despite having recruited 45 doctors in July.

He said the hospital was most in need of doctors specialising in family medicine. Doctors from other hospitals or private clinic were thus enlisted to work as part-timers, he added.