Dr Nick Cross has been appointed Clinical Director of the National Renal Transplantation Service and chaired the service's first meeting on Wednesday (September 17, 2014).
It follows Health Minister Tony Ryall's announcement last July that an extra $4 million would be invested to increase the number of live kidney donor transplantations over the next few years.
Dr Cross says a lot of work has gone into developing this new service and it was great to have the Government's financial backing.
"It's been a carefully thought-out process with involvement from the Ministry of Health and other interested groups, DHBs and Clinicians. It's really been a work in progress for probably the last two to three years," he says.
Dr Cross is looking forward to the challenge of heading the service and says he could not have taken on the national role without the support of his colleagues.
"I'm very grateful to my colleagues around the country for their support and encouragement but particularly to the team here in Canterbury. Dr John Irvine has stepped into my former role in Canterbury as Clinical Director of Nephrology, which has allowed me to commit to this national role."
The new service includes donor liaison coordinators who will work at each of the three transplanting centres and in the seven larger renal services in the country.
"These coordinators will support donors and recipients throughout the transplantation process, from providing education to interested potential donors to organising blood tests and carrying out pre-surgery preparation."
There is also funding to provide increased support for the Paired Kidney Exchange initiative, which allows donor and recipient pairs who are not compatible with each other to be listed for a possible swap with other pairs.
Dr Nick Cross says Canterbury has relatively high live donor rates compared with the rest of the country, with an average of 10-15 per year, but some DHBs have considerably lower numbers in relation to their population.
"We know kidney transplantation significantly improves the quality of life and the long-term survival of patients with end stage renal disease. Fortunately Canterbury has worked hard to become a leader in live donor rates and hopefully through this development of a national service, we will see rates start to increase nationally."
Dr Cross says he hopes the service will eventually be able to focus more on also improving deceased donor rates, which have remained relatively low in New Zealand for the last decade at about 40 per year.
"Increasing deceased donor rates would boost renal transplant numbers even further. We want as many people as possible who need a transplant to be able to receive an organ. Organ transplantation saves lives, and reduces expensive health care costs, such as dialysis."
The cost of looking after a patient with a kidney transplant is about a third of that compared to a patient on dialysis, Dr Cross says.
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