Program aims to increase organ donor registration

For one month starting Jan. 14, visitors to medical clinics on the Sunshine Coast will be informed about organ donation and given the opportunity to register as donors.

Mike Gojevic, a volunteer with BC Transplant, and Dr. Paul Dhillon of Cowrie Medical Clinic in Sechelt are spearheading the initiative, which they hope will be rolled out provincially if successful.

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From last October to November, Dhillon ran a trial at the Cowrie Street clinic, which resulted in 84 donor forms being completed, “which is fairly significant for a small clinic,” said Gojevic. Dhillon admitted he was initially disappointed with the numbers but was reassured by BC Transplant that it was a positive outcome.

Based on the success of that initial trial, the duo are rolling out a competition among clinics across the Sunshine Coast. “We’re calling it the waiting room challenge,” said Dhillon. The goal is to “have everyone try to see how many people they can get to update or sign up on paper forms while they’re in the waiting room.”

Participating clinics do not collect personal information. Signed forms are sealed and sent to B.C.’s organ donor registry. Only forms submitted at the clinics will count in the competition.

The project has received $5,000 in funding from the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, and BC Transplant is assisting with communications and providing materials. A medical student has been hired to conduct background research to determine the success of the initiative. Depending on the outcome, Dhillon will approach provincial organizations such as Doctors of BC to seek a provincial rollout.

ICBC and Service BC both ask visitors to register their decision, but according to BC Transplant, this is the first time a program has operated in family physician clinics in the province.

“The difference here, and why I think it will have a more positive impact, is that frontline staff in each of the clinics are more actively involved,” Gojevic said. “It’s a medical issue and you’re in the doctor’s office.”

“Ninety per cent of people believe in organ donation but only 20 to 25 per cent of people are actually registered, so we want to try to close that gap,” Gojevic said. Upper and Lower Sunshine Coast are home to 35 post-transplant patients, who are followed by BC Transplant.

The competition wraps up Valentine’s Day and will include a presentation of numbers and plaques. People can follow the challenge on social media with the hashtag #waitingroomchallenge.

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