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Burnout and succession key concerns for transplant services

Prof David Healy, President of the Society, said it is vital that key personnel can focus solely on transplantation without being burdened by other service duties.

Prof Healy, a Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, said transplant services were sustained by “a core group of enthusiasts” and potential burnout was a concern.

“It is a loose word, but it is an important word in our line of work and everyone working in this knows what I mean – when they see the occasional bit of behaviour that you wouldn’t feel is ideal, in terms of inter-personal behaviour,” he said. 

“Most of that isn’t driven by bad people, it is driven by pure burnout, and I am not even sure if those people are aware of it themselves. If you want to deliver a safe, sustainable, successful service, pacing is very important.”

Prof Healy emphasised the need for more stability and durability in staffing of retrieval teams. The next evolution must be to “put a surgical skillset onto the retrieval side equal to the surgical set on the implant side”.

He described the establishment of Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) as a major investment in driving forward organ donation and transplantation. 

An ODTI spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that it acknowledges “the challenges in relation to retrieval teams and that consistency is critical” and a number of options are being discussed.

Earlier, Minister for Health Simon Harris told the meeting that Ireland’s organ donation and transplantation rates in 2016 are reasonably good with room for significant improvement. 

“To the end of last week [week of 12 September], we had 78 donors this year, which resulted in 179 transplants; the living donor programme is performing very well, in fact 33 donors to the end of last week – we have already equalled the total number of donors in 2015.”

The 78 donors comprised 45 deceased donors and 33 living donors. 

Minister Harris also confirmed his intention to introduce legislation on an opt out system of consent for organ donation, which he conceded was not “a magic wand”.

There were 81 deceased donors in 2015 and the target goal is 100 this year.

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