For the last decade the increasingly long waiting lists for cornea transplantation have consistently gained media and government attention. Wait times are often measured in years as opposed to months, meaning the rates of access to cornea transplantation in Canada are on par with, or lower than, the rates seen in some developing countries. Yet, despite all the attention the number of corneas transplanted in Canada has remained unchanged for the last six years and no focused and coordinated efforts have been expended to improve this system.
On Feb. 9 and 10, 2020, eye and tissue bank representatives, health authority and hospital leadership, transplant ophthalmologists, organ donation organizations, transplant recipients, donor families and several national organizations – including the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program, the Canadian Standards Association – Ocular Technical Committee, Canadian Blood Services, and the Donation Physician Network, came together to identify opportunities and solutions and in doing so, put forth the ultimate recommendation:
To create a Canadian cornea donation and transplantation system that is self-sufficient and eliminates corneal transplant waiting lists within five years.
The community of experts assembled understood the challenges that undertaking system-level improvement presents; however, they believe the recommendations identified in this guidance are specific, realistic, time-based, and largely attainable and that implementation of the recommendations will lead to transformative change. Respecting the resource limitations of the current system, there are opportunities to optimize existing programs and infrastructure and execute strategies at the provincial level that will ultimately demonstrate national system improvement.
The engagement, excitement and momentum generated from this consultation is palpable. The energy and recommendations from the community will provide guidance to the provinces, governments, health-care organizations, health-care professionals, researchers, transplant recipients, and donor families who want to work together to achieve this bold vision.
The guidance stemming from this national consultation is transformational and acting on the recommendations will improve access to cornea donation and transplantation in Canada.
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Canadian Blood Services acknowledges, with gratitude, the commitment of the Ocular Leading Practice Forum Planning Committee and Executive Committee, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, and the Eye and Tissue Data Committee, as well as all those whose contributions support the continued growth and achievements of Canadian Blood Services and the development of the Canadian eye and tissue donation and transplantation system.
Most importantly, we sincerely acknowledge the generosity of cornea donors, their families and loved ones, who give selflessly to provide sight to transplant recipients and offer hope to recipients who are waiting across the country.