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New referral program would minimize missed organ and tissue donations

Paramedic Service Community-Based Death Referral Program would see Simcoe County paramedics referring possible donors to the Trillium Gift of Life Network
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Although many people across the province have signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, some are still being overlooked due to a narrow referral process.

County of Simcoe paramedic services in partnership with the Trillium Gift of Life Network are hoping to change that.

The Paramedic Service Community-Based Death Referral Program – considered recently at County of Simcoe committee of the whole – was started by the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), the Ontario agency responsible for co-ordinating organ and tissue donation and transplantation across the province. The goal of the program is to minimize missed cases.

In the past, tissue donation referrals have occurred primarily through hospitals, and paramedic services didn’t have a hand in the process.

“We’re not really involved in it right now,” said Andrew Robert, paramedic chief with the County of Simcoe. “Typically it’s done at the hospital level, so when patients are brought to the hospital, either living or deceased, the hospital would engage with contacting TGLN.

“The big challenge is there are patients that die who are not taken to hospital now. Paramedics undertake efforts to resuscitate and sometimes we don’t transport because if we can’t get them back, the hospital can’t either,” he added.

Prior to this program being introduced, Robert said that even if someone had identified themselves as an organ or tissue donor on their health card, if they didn’t go to the hospital, their donation wouldn’t happen.

“We’re not checking that. We’ve never been involved in donation before,” he said.

Through the program, paramedics wouldn’t be proposing tissue donation to patients’ next of kin. Next of kin for all eligible patients would still be contacted directly by the TGLN for the donation discussion. County of Simcoe Paramedic Services is then notified when a tissue donation is made as a result of their referral.

The family of each donor would also receive a letter outlining the outcome of the donation.

“The opportunity here is we’re identifying patients that aren’t going to the hospital that have died but meet the need of the eligibility criteria,” said Robert.

Robert said for every person who donates their organs and tissue, 75 people’s lives can be enhanced.

“Our inclusion in this program may result in some donations,” said Robert. “It’s a great initiative and we’re really happy to be a part of it. This can be something good that comes out of a really bad or tragic incident. To help 75 people is quite a legacy.”

“If we can help start a conversation that may result in people’s lives being enhanced, we want to be a part of that,” he added.

There are several Ontario Paramedic Services currently participating in the program including Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Middlesex-London, Renfrew and Frontenac.

As of February 2019, these services generated more than 200 referrals resulting in 12 donors.

If program implementation is approved at council, all paramedics employed by the County of Simcoe will participate in training at the upcoming fall Continuing Education sessions. The program will then go live following the final continuing education session in December 2019, likely in January 2020.

County committee of the whole voted to recommend the program be implemented within the County of Simcoe Paramedic Services.

The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular council meeting, which takes place Tuesday.

If you’d like to register or check to see if you’re already registered to be an organ and tissue donor, click here.




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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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