A former deputy health minister denied on Tuesday that there had been a shortage of organs for transplant since a ban on taking them from executed prisoners came into effect on January 1. He said "a record number" of the operations was expected to be carried out this year. "We expect to do more than 12,000 organ transplants this year," Dr Huang Jiefu said in Hong Kong. Huang, who is the deputy director of the health committee of the country's top political advisory body, was on a visit to raise funds for a medical foundation. "As of Monday we had operated on 1,371 donors to harvest organs," he said. One donor can supply several organs, and Huang said the mainland expected that 40 per cent of the 30,000 people on waiting lists for organs would have transplants by the end of the year. "In the past when the organs from executed prisoners were used, we saw at most around 10,000 transplants in a year," he said, adding the mainland had seen the opposite of the shortage predicted by some media when the ban was announced. We expect to do more than 12,000 organ transplants this year Dr Huang Jiefu China used to be the only country that depended on executed criminals for organ donations. By the end of 2009, more than 65 per cent of the organs were from executed prisoners, according to the Health Ministry. The following year the mainland launched a pilot organ donation scheme, and last year, all the 169 hospitals authorised to carry out transplants started using a unified computerised system to help patients apply for organs and match donations with patients. "As far as I know, no [doctors] use organs from executed prisoners, and whoever does so will be punished," Huang said. "But China is a big country. No one can say for sure that there are no bad people out there." One surgeon from Guangdong said he had done more organ harvesting operations since the ban came into effect. "The number I have is that China had 1,600 harvesting operations in 2014. In the first half of this year alone, there have already been more than 1,200 surgeries," he said. But the surgeon said many more than the 30,000 people registered needed transplants. "Our estimate is that about 300,000 need such surgeries. But many of them choose not to apply for transplants because they cannot afford it," he said. A liver transplant, for instance, costs about 600,000 yuan (HK$760,000), and such procedures are not covered by public medical insurance. Huang and former health minister Chen Zhu are calling for the insurance scheme to be overhauled to cover the costs of such surgeries. "An organ transplant is a basic medical need of these patients. Unless they get such treatment, they have little chance to survive," Huang said. He added that the China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation, a public fund that began this year, would offer financial aid to patients from low-income families and pay for the medical care of people who decide to donate their organs.