The director of Organ Donation and Transplants Ireland has said it is unprecedented for transplant surgery to be cancelled because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Professor Jim Egan was referencing the cancellation of a transplant operation at Dublin’s Mater hospital earlier this month, because there was not an intensive care bed available.
“In my professional career this is unprecedented,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
Prof Egan said he was very aware of the distress that this news would bring to the donor family, to the family of the patient who had been awaiting the transplant and to the staff who had to make “a very difficult decision in very difficult circumstances.”
Organ donation and transplants had continued despite the pandemic and it was important to remember that organ donation saves lives, he said.
The surge in Covid cases had meant that intensive care bed capacity was “the pinch point”. Delivering organ transplant services during a pandemic was very complex, as post operation patients would be vulnerable and Covid in such circumstances carried a mortality rate of 20 per cent.
Post-operative care for a transplant patient was very demanding, very detailed and required complex surveillance, he said. It was very challenging to provide such facilities following complex surgeries, but the system was very resilient.
“We have carried out transplants even since the event we’re discussing.”
Prof Egan said he was confident that everyone was making every effort to carry out these serious surgeries. No stone was being left unturned to deliver organ transplant procedures.
He added that he had the height of respect for his intensive care colleagues, who were continuing to support families who made the decision of organ donation.
In the case of the surgery that was cancelled at the Mater hospital, it had not been possible to offer the donor organ to another jurisdiction because of the timescale involved, but in some circumstances organs would be offered to another jurisdiction.
Prof Egan urged everyone to get vaccinated, to observe social distancing and wear masks “so we can get through this crisis.”