The number of patients who died while waiting for organ transplants last year rose by almost 50 per cent compared with 2010, according to Hospital Authority statistics.
In a written reply to a question by lawmaker Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai, Food and Health Secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said 34 patients died last year while waiting for liver, heart or lung transplants. In 2010, 23 people died due to similar reasons.
The number of patients who failed to secure a liver transplant increased to 27 from 18, while those waiting for a heart transplant doubled to six. One patient died while waiting for a lung transplant, down from two in 2010.
The increase in deaths coincided with a fall in the number of registrations at the Centralised Organ Donation Register over the past two years. Only 22,610 people registered their wish to donate organs after death last year, down 5 per cent from 2010.
Tangent Cheung Chi-tang, the chairman of the Hong Kong Liver Transplant Patients' Association, said the number of patients diagnosed with liver diseases was rising.
'While liver diseases have been linked to those in their 40s, more youngsters are suffering from them in recent years,' Cheung said.
People could catch some liver diseases, such as hepatitis, through various channels, including tattooing and the sharing of syringes, he added.
'I've seen youngsters in their 20s in need of a liver transplant,' he said. 'There are more patients but fewer donors. Chinese people are conservative and still have doubts about donating organs after death.'
But lack of donors was not the only problem. Chow also told lawmakers that the authority had yet to fill 50 vacancies for radiographers needed to operate X-ray and other imaging equipment used in the diagnosis of disease.
Turnover of radiographers had been high in recent years and despite hiring 100 new staff over the past three years, more were needed.