Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, has confirmed at Senate Estimates today that the Organ and Tissue Authority Advisory Council was not consulted prior to the Government announcing another expensive review of organ donation in Australia.
It was this bizarre decision to freeze out the advisory body which prompted David “Kochie” Koch to sensationally resign as chairperson of the council live on air.
Senator Nash issued a media release announcing the review just 48 hours after receiving a department brief on the subject.
When asked by Senator Jan McLucas who Senator Nash consulted with during this time Senator Nash responded that she had not spoken to anyone. She could not provide any explanation of why the Organ and Tissue Authority Advisory Council was not consulted.
After further questioning it was revealed that she had not held a single meeting with the advisory council since being appointed as Assistant Minister.
The hearings also enabled Senators to explore Mr Koch’s allegation that the review, to be undertaken by Ernst and Young, was driven by transplant advocacy group ShareLife. The Senators heard from department officials that a current member of ShareLife was a director at Ernst and Young until December last year.
The hearings have provided further evidence of the Government’s chaotic handling of organ and tissue donation.
Labor established the authority to ensure a coordinated approach to organ and tissue donation and it worked. Donation rates increased by almost 40 per cent in less than five years.
But the Government’s actions, including the decision to merge the Organ and Tissue Authority with the National Blood Authority as well as $57 billion worth of cuts to public hospitals, have reversed this trend.
In the first full year of the Abbott Government organ and tissue donation rates fell by three per cent after rising for four straight years.