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Organ donation program resumes, but only partially: Saskatchewan Health Authority

Click to play video: 'Organ donation program resumes, but only partially: Saskatchewan Health Authority' Organ donation program resumes, but only partially: Saskatchewan Health Authority
WATCH: Saskatchewan's organ donation program is back online, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) confirmed the move during a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. Organ donations have been suspended amid health-care service slowdowns associated with the pandemic. However, staffing vacancies are preventing a full resumption of the program. Taz Dhaliwal has the story. – Nov 30, 2021

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has confirmed its organ donation program is back online after being suspended amid health-care service slowdowns associated with the COVID-19 crisis.

But the SHA says staffing vacancies are preventing a full resumption of the program.

“SHA did slow down a number of services in order to redeploy staff as part of the COVID-19 response and the organ donation program was one of those,” said SHA Emergency Operations Chief Derek Miller.

“We have now resumed services. We are working through some staffing vacancies that have arisen throughout this period, in Saskatoon specifically. So, that service is partially resumed and the team’s working right now in order to recruit the people into those roles in order to fully resume those services as quickly as possible.”

Read more: ’27 missed opportunities’ for organ donations with program paused: SHA

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Miller confirmed the partial resumption began on Nov. 29.

During a COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 30, the SHA confirmed its organ donation program is back online after being suspended amid health-care service slowdowns. However, the SHA says staffing vacancies are preventing a full resumption of the program.

A Saskatchewan resident named Jessica Bailey is waiting for a kidney transplant surgery and she is one of the many still fighting for survival. She says her kidney is only functioning at one to two per cent.

She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2018 and has been on dialysis for 18 months.

Read more: Saskatchewan woman’s kidney surgery delayed because of COVID-19

“I’m at the bitter end here, I’ve been hanging on by a thread for a while,” Bailey said.

“It scares me to be honest, in my position as a palliative patient, they give you a year. And if we’re backlogged for a more than a year, then my odds aren’t very good then,” she added.

Another hurdle that lies in the way of Bailey getting her surgery is a staffing vacancy. The province says team’s are working to recruit eligible people into vacant roles in order to fully resume organ donation services, as quickly as possible.

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The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently released a stat, which indicates 4,000 excess deaths have occurred in Canada due to pandemic-related delays in health care.

Additionally, the CMA notes it would cost upwards of $1.3 billion to clear the surgeries and procedures backlog by June.

Bailey is hoping to beat those odds.

“Becoming part of that statistic is scary, I mean obviously we’re in a healthcare crisis and something needs to be done about it,” she stated.

On Tuesday, during a scrum at the legislative building, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said the plan is to get everyone back into the organ donation plan and the process is up and running.

“I’m told that they are at 100 per cent with the exception of maybe Saskatoon, where they have a couple of vacancies they need to fill,” Merriman said.

“We’re working on that right away. I’ve asked my officials to look into that to make that department is made whole,” he added.

The resumption comes as the province confirms it has met its target, set earlier this month, of returning 90 per cent of “eligible” redeployed staff by the end of November.

Read more: Organ transplant patients in limbo as Alberta, Saskatchewan delay surgeries amid COVID-19 surge

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As of Nov. 26, 257 of the 395 services slowed since Sept. 1, 2021 have been fully resumed, the province said, while 59 services have been partially resumed.

Global News reached out to the SHA for an updated total on the number of opportunities for organ donation missed while the program was suspended, and it responded by saying that approximately 35 missed opportunities for a consult to the organ donation program have been recorded.

“Missed opportunities may not always progress to a donation however we had lost the ability to explore this option due to deployment of donation and transplantation staff,” wrote the SHA in a statement.

“It is important to note that organ donations from deceased donors are not “scheduled”, so it is really a clinical decision at the time if this is an option to proceed.”

It adds it will be assessing donation opportunities on a case-by-case basis.

The statement goes on to note that in rare cases, organ transplants, from living donors or out of province deceased donors, also continue to be considered on a case by case basis.

The SHA indicates that this depends on a number of factors, which include suitability and matching of organs, the overall health care system’s ability to provide care (for both the recipient and the donor), safety and bed availability.

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“This is a high risk procedure, which means it is imperative that the conditions be as safe and ideal as possible, and the impact of COVID-19 has created additional complications and is drawing on needed resources for such a procedure,”

As of Oct. 31, the kidney transplant wait list is 51 and we one patient is waiting for a living donation organ. SHA said, so far, no patients have died waiting for kidney transplants.

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