Germany seeks Spanish help on organ transplants

Top officials and doctors from Germany are in Spain to get help on how to improve the performance and transparency of their organ donation and transplantation system.

Germany seeks Spanish help on organ transplants
Spain is a world leader in organ donation and transplantation. Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP

The delegation of government officials and doctors from Germany's DSO transplant organization arrive in the wake of a series of scandals involving data manipulation to alter waiting lists in that country, according to online daily Lasprovincias.

The head of Spain's National Transplant Organization (ONT), Rafael Matesanz, explained that when the German government ordered a leading lawyer to review and overhaul organ donation systems, he had contacted Spain to analyze the Spanish model to see which aspects of it could be successfully transplanted.   

"They can't change their system overnight but they can adapt many of the concepts that we've developed and try to modify them to help them improve," he said.

"It's important for a country like Germany, which has always operated its transplant system independently, to come to Spain because we are a leader in this area."

The German system is very different to the Spanish because it depends on the cooperation of the various German federal states, the procurement of organs through the DSO and their distribution via a company called Eurotransplant.

In Spain, the ONT  is responsible for both the procurement and transplantation of not just organs but also other tissues and cells whereas in Germany these are handled separately by "many different private companies".

The German Ministry of Health is not involved in the process.

"We have urged them to change in this regard," said Matesanz.

He added: "Spain was the first country where the department of health got involved with transplants and, after 25 years of working well it has proven to be effective."

The German delegation have invited Matesanz to visit Berlin to explain the Spanish transplant model to the federal parliament and how it could be adapted to the German healthcare system.

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Why Spanish doctors are staging walkouts in the grip of a pandemic

Spanish doctors staged their first national strike in 25 years Tuesday to demand better working conditions and greater recognition as the country grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Why Spanish doctors are staging walkouts in the grip of a pandemic
Photo: AFP

About 85 percent of Spain's 267,000 doctors took part in the walkout, most of them symbolically as they continued to see patients, said the State Confederation of Medical Unions (CESM) which called the 24-hour action.   

While officially declaring themselves to be on strike, they went in to ensure minimum service requirements and so that patients were not left alone.    

About 50 doctors in white lab coats, all standing a safe distance apart protested outside parliament in Madrid, many holding posters of a large black boot about to stomp on a group of healthcare workers.

While there have been regional doctors' protests since the start of the pandemic, this is their first national strike since 1995.

Sergio Casabona, a gastroenterologist who protested outside parliament, said “the straw that broke the camel's back” for exhausted doctors was a government decree saying they could be assigned to other hospital services, regardless of their specialism, whenever needed.   

The health ministry argues the reform is needed to improve the fight against the pandemic but CESM has called it the “biggest attack” on Spain's public healthcare system.

Pablo Cereceda, a digestive surgeon also at the protest, called it a “botched decree which reveals the (authorities') inability to face this pandemic”.

Since exiting a strict national lockdown in June, coronavirus cases in Spain have soared, with thousands of infections diagnosed every day.

Hospitalisations, though lower than the March-April peak, are also on the rise.    

Spain last week became the first European Union nation to surpass one million confirmed Covid-19 infections, with the virus claiming more than 35,000 lives.

The strike came on the same day that Spain's leftist government unveiled its draft budget for 2021, which includes a 151 percent increase in spending for the public health sector.