NEWS

Hands-on approach to transplants

In a drastic step hoped to boost the dramatically low number of human organ transplants in Greece, as of next year officials are to stake out hospital intensive-care units in search of potential donors, it was announced yesterday. The head of the National Transplant Organization (NTO), Alkiviadis Costakis, told a press conference that 70 doctors and highly trained nurses will take up duty as of January 1 in hospitals with intensive-care units. The NTO «local coordinators,» who are currently undergoing training, already work at the hospitals. Although the situation has improved slightly in recent years, Greece still occupies one of the lowest rungs in the European Union as far as organ donations are concerned, at 6.7 donors per million of population – a magnificent total of 74 individuals. At the same time, according to Costakis, around 1,000 Greeks are on waiting lists for transplants. Most – 850 – need kidneys, while around 100 require liver transplants. The NTO chairman said the annual number of donors would have to triple, climbing to 20 per million inhabitants, in order to cope with demand. NTO now hopes to emulate Spain, which, at 33.7 donors per million, stands at the top of the EU standings, by launching a more aggressive approach to increasing the number of donors. The new NTO local coordinators will work in close cooperation with intensive-care unit directors to locate potential donors in the form of brain-dead patients. The next step will be to deal more actively with the patients’ families, and urge them to seriously consider the prospect of allowing organ transplants. Costakis expressed high hopes that the new campaign will produce tangible results. As of December, Costakis said, the Athens Laiko Hospital is to start a liver transplant program. Organ donor application forms were distributed during the March 2001 population census, which resulted in a considerable increase in the national donor list.