COVID-19: A statement from the Canadian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Community

April 1, 2020 - In the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, administrative and medical leads of the organ donation and transplantation community across Canada are meeting regularly to collaboratively develop recommendations that can be used by provincial organ donation organizations and regional transplant and donation programs to guide the administration of organ and tissue donation and transplantation services.

The pressure COVID-19 is putting on Canadian hospitals is affecting organ and tissue donation and transplantation. While non-essential surgeries are paused, urgent and lifesaving organ and tissue donation and transplantation is proceeding on a case-by-case basis, and in collaboration with provincial and hospital administrators. It is expected that decisions about whether to proceed with donation or transplantation may differ from one jurisdiction to another.

All living donation and transplant surgeries related to the Kidney Paired Donation program have been postponed for a minimum of six weeks, effective Monday, March 16. Surgeries will be rescheduled once there is consensus that it is safe to do so for both donors and recipients. In a number of jurisdictions eye and tissue donation has also been reduced or suspended. Measures are in place to ensure patients who need tissue grafts for emergency surgery will receive them. 

Organ transplant recipients are, or are likely to become, immunocompromised, and may be at increased risk of more severe outcomes related to COVID-19. As a result, the decision to proceed with donation and transplantation must balance the risk the virus poses to potential recipients with the risk of delaying transplantation.

Undoubtedly this will cause concern for those waiting for a transplant, and for transplant recipients. As the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each province, transplant programs are working with patients to provide information and updates. We recommend that transplant candidates and potential living donors contact their local transplant or donation program with specific questions.

The safety of patients and health care workers is paramount.  As the situation evolves, healthcare infrastructure and capacity issues may be further impacted including organ and tissue donation and transplantation. 

Donation and transplantation administrators and clinicians continue to monitor this situation and will update guidance accordingly including informing when it is safe to resume regular donation and transplant activities.

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