China sets up organ procurement organisation alliance

GUANGZHOU - China has set up an organ procurement organisation alliance to help smooth the process of organ donations, distribution and transplants, a senior health official said.

Huang Jiefu, director of the China Organ Donation Committee and a former deputy health minister, made the remarks at the alliance launch Thursday.

Led by the health administration and management bureau of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the alliance, operated under the Chinese Hospital Association, is responsible for devising and introducing entry standards and specified technology criterion, conducting qualification authentication and information technology support, and providing humanitarian assistance for the surviving family members of organ donors.

Official statistics show China has 169 recognised organ transplant centers, and each now contains an organ procurement organisation mainly to detect potential donors, by approaching their families, obtaining the donated organs and helping console donor families.

Huang stressed that an OPO is different from a transplant centre. In many industrial countries, OPOs are independent of transplant centers.

"It still takes time for China to define its own model and the number of OPOs should be first considered within a province based on the varied local situation," he said.

"The alliance will carry out evaluation of transplant centers of the country in aspects such as service quality and post-transplant outcome. That evaluation helps health authorities manage and supervise the transplant centers," Huang said.

Those found to have a poor record of survival rate or violations such as performing organ transplants for foreigners, known as organ transplant tourism, will be severely punished in line with the country's laws and regulations.

Transplant centers or OPOs are encouraged to use organs via the national public organ donation system first launched in 2010, said Zhou Jun, deputy director of the commission's health administration and management bureau.

"The alliance will help with the general management by the commission of transplant centers and the lifesaving medical procedure in general," he said Thursday.

Huang, who is also head of the alliance, said apart from OPOs, the alliance is open to stakeholders including academic institutions related to organ transplantation, medical journals, patients' rights organisations and health insurance companies.

Last year, the commission issued a directive requiring all donated organs be obtained by OPOs authorised by provincial health authorities, and that allocation of the organs must be done through the China Organ Transplant Response System (www.cot.org.cn).

The system is computerized and thus free of human interference in distributing the organs, said Wang Haibo, the system director.

Huang said it is crucial to ensure open and fair practices in issues related to organ transplants.

He also said China would get at least 100 more transplant centers to meet its needs, but gave no timetable for that.

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