Media Release, 27 August 2015
Hundreds of New Zealanders will today be celebrating the safe passage of the Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill through its first reading in Parliament – not least the more than 600 who still remain on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to Kidney Health NZ chief executive Max Reid.
“Though on the increase, NZ still has one of the lowest deceased organ donation rates in the world,” Mr Reid says. “With that in mind, anything that can be done to increase the rate of live organ donation is to be encouraged.
“The Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by National List MP Chris Bishop, seeks to raise the level of financial reimbursement for live organ donors to 80% of lost income over the period of a donor’s recuperation, in line with ACC payments. Currently live organ donors only receive the sickness benefit, which wouldn’t even cover an average mortgage payment.
“Kidney Health NZ commends Chris Bishop for sponsoring the Bill, which was originally proposed by Michael Woodhouse MP more than six years ago. That all parties have supported the Bill through to Select Committee is also hugely encouraging. But does the Bill go far enough?
“Kidney Health NZ’s position is that live organ donors should be fully reimbursed for lost income and any associated costs incurred. Recent NZ research indicates that, for anyone aged over 35 on dialysis, their life expectancy on average doubles following a kidney transplant. For the more than 1,500 New Zealanders currently living with a donated kidney, the transplant has literally been life-changing. Not only does the transplant make an immeasurable difference for the recipient, but also for their family – who transition from supporting a seriously unwell family member, to enjoying life with a full and active one.
“The potential savings to the health system also offer an irrefutable argument in favour of full reimbursement,” Mr Reid says. “The saving to the health budget of a 50 year old patient having a transplant as opposed to staying on dialysis for the remainder of their life is more than $120,000 – even taking into account the fact that this person is likely to live for twice as long post-transplant.
“Where else in the health system can you demonstrate dramatically improving a patient’s health and wellbeing by spending less?
“Kidney Health NZ will also be advocating that any financial assistance to live donors be not only funded out of savings within the health budget, but managed by the Ministry of Health. The current arrangement, where donors have to enrol with WINZ, is both unnecessarily cumbersome and potentially demeaning. Despite the Bill proposing that reimbursement be aligned to ACC, a person’s decision to donate a kidney is anything but accidental. Organ transplants are a health matter, and they should be both funded and managed accordingly,” Mr Reid says.
Kidney Health NZ (formally the Kidney Foundation) is a national organisation supporting kidney patients and their families by way of education, advocacy and research across all areas of kidney health – including organ donation and transplant, dialysis, early detection and prevention of chronic kidney disease. For further information or advice, contact the Kidney Health Helpline – 0800 KIDNEYS (543 639)
For further comment or enquiries, please contact:
Max Reid, Chief Executive, Kidney Health NZ – ph. 021 72 33 44
Dr Colin Hutchison, Medical Advisor, Kidney Health NZ – ph. 027 703 5651