September 13, 2018 12:30 pm
Updated: September 13, 2018 5:16 pm

New tissue recovery site to help ease donation wait times in N.S.

WATCH: The Nova Scotia Health Authority and medical examiner’s office revealed a unique joint project that will help more Nova Scoitans gain access to donated tissue. Silas Brown reports.


At 55 per cent, Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of tissue donors in the country. And now, thanks to a joint venture between the Nova Scotia Health Authority [NSHA] and the Medical Examiner’s office, more of them will help save and improve the lives of others.

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“Imagine being able to help restore the sight of a neighbour who has not been able to see their granddaughter’s graduation, or saving the life of a young mother who lives in your community, who’s been struggling to move due to her heart condition and now … through your gift of donation is able to help that mother who wants to be there for her children,” said Cynthia Isenor, the Health Services Director of Critical Care for the NSHA, during the announcement.

“This is what improving access to both tissue donations and transplants means for Nova Scotians.”

READ MORE: Life on the wait list: Financial incentives for Nova Scotia doctors underutilized

Stakeholders and media were given a first look at the new site Thursday morning, which is located in the Nova Scotia medical examiner facility in Dartmouth. The recovery suite, which opened in February, is the first dedicated in-house recovery suite under the jurisdiction of a medical examiner in Canada.

“Ontario is the only other province in Canada that has been working collaboratively with their coroners or medical examiners service, however, having access to our own recovery suite within the medical examiners office is a very unique opportunity and situation,” Isenor said after a tour of the facility.

WATCH: Stories of Nova Scotia’s family doctor shortage

The site allows NSHA staff to quickly recover tissue such as heart valves, skin, and corneas, from donors who come into the medical examiner’s office. Previously, recovery took place in hospital OR rooms, which could delay the return of a donor to it’s family for up to 12 hours, or cause the tissue to be unusable.

“Often times that becomes conflicting given [hospital’s] workload and surgeries that need to take place, particularly during the day time,” said Harold Taylor, Health Services Manager for the Regional Tissue Bank.

“So what could often happen is that we may be delayed in actually being able to start recovery, it may be within our timelines but that creates a delay and undue stress to even the family members in getting their loved one returned to them.”

READ MORE: By the numbers: Nova Scotia’s family doctor shortage

Taylor said that there has not been a single donor deferral since the facility opened in February.

While Nova Scotia is somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to this new facility, Taylor says that this is the direction that other jurisdictions are likely to move in.

“It’s unique but it’s looking to become best practice because the relationships that tissue banks have with coroners and medical examiner services are very close given the fact that our domains cross over in working with those patients and families,” he said.

Recovered tissues are able to be cryo-preserved until needed, sometimes for up to five years, however the need for tissues far outpaces supply.

“There’s still a huge demand. There’s still not enough tissue in order to meet the surgical demands for Nova Scotia patients. There’s still long wait-lists, individuals in need for access of this in order to improve their life we need to be doing better, and we are. This is one way we’re bridging that gap.”


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