The Gibraltar Health Authority plans to make organ donations possible in Gibraltar within the next few months, with locals already able to sign up to the donor list.
The online register is open for locals to opt-in to the UKs organ donation list that now caters for Gibraltar.
Yesterday Dr Paul Murphy, alongside Dr Dale Gardner, Tracey Gibson and Shibu Chacko from the NHS Blood and Transplant Service arrived in Gibraltar to discuss with the GHA any final preparations before this is launched.
The register is for organs to be donated posthumously, and donors will be added to the UK list.
This means that people needing organs in Gibraltar can receive organs from the UK, while UK recipients will be able to draw on organ donations from Gibraltar.
Organ donations can only be done in certain circumstances, meaning that it is estimated just one or two viable organ donors will be identified annually in Gibraltar.
There are currently four people in Gibraltar waiting for kidney transplants and these patients have been registered on the UK list.
Dr Murphy yesterday asked for community support, urging Gibraltarians to sign up and register as organ donors.
“If we don’t have any organ donors, then we can’t perform any organ transplants,” Dr Murphy said.
“The other side of the coin to this is that we also want to give people in Gibraltar access to being organ donors when they die in circumstances where donation is a possibility.”
“That comes with some logistical challenges because what we are proposing is that the organ donation team will come from the UK to St Bernard’s Hospital in Gibraltar to support the organ removal process.”
One of the main obstacles for the organ transplant team will be time.
The team need to arrive in Gibraltar quickly to return the organ to the UK and vice versa to ensure the organs remain viable.
“The purpose of the visit today is to run through what the likely obstacles are and to provide some initial education and training for the staff here in Gibraltar who will also be caring for the potential donor,” Dr Murphy said.
A team from the NHS Blood and Transplant Service will travel to Gibraltar when a viable donor is identified.
Dr Murphy added the team will be negotiating with Gibraltar International Airport to keep the runway open for emergency flights.
“Time is of the essence,” Dr Murphy said. “We have got to get there as quickly as we can and we have to depart quickly as the organs have to be transplanted as quickly as possible.”
He estimates it will take between four and five hours for the team to arrive in Gibraltar and several hours at St Bernard’s Hospital to examine the organs.
The process to retrieve an organ could take 24 hours. After the organ is retrieved they have to immediately be returned to the UK.
Dr Murphy explained a heart would have to be transplanted within six hours of being removed from the donor. Time is most critical after the organs are retrieved.
Every viable donor has the potential to donate eight organs, therefore saving eight lives.
“Just as Gibraltarians have access to all the organs in the UK pool, their organs will also go into that pool,” Dr Murphy said.
“There are real benefits to that because if you have a small pool of donors, it is much less likely you will get an organ that is the right match for you.”
“If you have a large pool of donors you are much more likely to get a well matched organ that will function well and function for a long time.”
The GHA came to an agreement with Hammersmith Hospital in London last June.
Prior to this there was no formal system for organ transplants in Gibraltar meaning that patients who needed transplants would have to be resident in the UK.
Some Gibraltarians were able to receive transplants through the Spanish system by registering themselves employed in Spain.
No one registered as a resident in Gibraltar has had a transplant in the UK yet, but with this agreement that will change.
Gibraltar residents can sign up to the UK Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk. After the application is submitted the team at the GHA will be notified.
It is advised to tell family members and friends about this decision to ensure this is known at the time of death.