Seanad speech by Minister Varadkar on pancreatic transplants Wednesday 8 July 2015

Check Against Delivery

I want to thank Senator Burke for raising this issue .

The consultant who undertook pancreas transplants at Beaumont Hospital took early retirement at the end of 2014.  Given the limited number of surgeons who specialise in transplantation, the filling of such vacancies poses a challenge.

While Beaumont Hospital is making every effort to recruit a suitable replacement, the hospital is also collaborating with St Vincent’s University Hospital on a combined approach to kidney/pancreas transplants.  It is proposed that pancreatic transplants, of which 6 were performed in 2014, will move to St Vincent’s University Hospital.

The two hospitals, together with Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI), which is part of the HSE and my Department, are working to make arrangements to facilitate the commencement of this work as soon as possible.

Most pancreas transplants are combined with a kidney transplant.  Such cases will involve transplant surgeons from St Vincent’s University Hospital and Beaumont Hospital working together on the St Vincent’s campus.

In addition to working with St Vincent’s Hospital in a combined approach to kidney/pancreas transplants, Beaumont is also collaborating with that hospital on the development of an intra-abdominal organ retrieval service that will facilitate a more effective and cohesive overall procurement and transplant service.

Beaumont Hospital wrote in May to all patients who have received a pancreas transplant, as well as to patients who are on the transplant waiting list.  They have also written to all referring consultants.  At this point, all pancreas transplant recipients have been seen by clinicians in Beaumont or have appointments in place.  Future pathways of care are being discussed with all patients at these meetings.

A joint assessment clinic for the 8 patients who are waiting for a pancreas transplant, involving consultants and nurses from both Beaumont and St. Vincent’s, will be held on 24th July.

Management and clinical staff at the hospitals are committed to ensuring that an optimal service will be put in place to the long-term benefit of those in need of pancreas transplants.  As St Vincent’s is already established as the National Liver Transplant Centre, and is a designated centre for pancreas cancer services, it is well placed to undertake pancreas transplants.

Every effort is being made to have all the necessary arrangements and protocols in place to facilitate St. Vincent’s being in a position to undertake pancreas transplants from mid-September, should a suitable donor/recipient match occur.

Additional funding of almost €3m has been provided to facilitate the development of the most appropriate infrastructure to support organ donation and transplantation.  This will facilitate the appointment of 19 whole-time-equivalent staff dedicated to organ donation and transplantation across the country.   Included in this are 5 Organ Procurement Coordinators, who have been appointed, and 6 Organ Donation Nurse Managers who will be in post in each of the hospital groups by the end of August.

In conclusion, I want to thank all the families who have facilitated the donation of the organs of their loved ones, often to the benefit of several recipients.  I also want to reiterate my commitment to enhancing organ donation and transplantation rates to the benefit of patients and their families.