Only one in 10 York residents has registered to be an organ and tissue donor, one of the worst records in Ontario, according to the provincial agency responsible for managing the system.
York’s poor 10 per cent standing mirrors other communities in the Greater Toronto Area, which has a lower percentage of registered donors than any region in Ontario.
“We’re not at all happy,” said Ronnie Gavsie, president of the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network.
“There are over 1,500 people in Ontario waiting for a transplant and it is a life-saving transplant. On average, one of them dies every three days.”
Next of kin are much more likely to agree to donate a loved one’s organs and tissues if the deceased had registered as a donor, Gavsie said.
One donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of as many as 75 others.
Just over 66,000 Ontario residents, or 22 per cent, have agreed to donate their organs and tissues after death by registering at www.BeADonor.ca
Residents of smaller communities, especially in Northern Ontario, are significantly more likely to register than people living in cities, which have more diverse and transient populations, Gavsie said.
For example, North Bay, Timmins and Sturgeon Falls report donor registration rates of more than 45 per cent. A suburb of Sudbury is the first in Ontario to achieve a 50 per cent registration rate.
By comparison, York and North York each report a 10 per cent participation rate. In Scarborough, only 9 per cent of residents are registered, while the rate is 12 per in Etobicoke and 11 per cent in East York.
Trillium Gift of Life has launched a campaign to boost registration numbers in and around Toronto.
“We’re putting a very strong focus on the GTA,” said Gavsie, adding the agency is recruiting politicians, celebrities and the media for its awareness campaign.
As many as one in four Ontario residents mistakenly believe they are registered donors because they have signed a paper donation card, Gavsie said.
But those cards are not effective because they may not be immediately found when someone dies. Time is crucial for retrieving organs and tissues after someone dies, Gavsie said.
In contrast, when someone registers at www.BeADonor.ca, their decision is made available to their family at the right time. Families can then honour their loved one’s decision to save lives, she said.
“We think there are a lot of people in York and North York who have signed their (paper) donor cards but should register at www.BeADonor.ca,” Gavsie said.
It only takes a couple of minutes to register and doesn’t cost anything.
People suffering from serious illnesses can be donors. Before a transplant, every donor is assessed for suitability. Even if a donor’s organs cannot be used, tissues such as eyes can usually be transplanted.
To be eligible to register, you must have an Ontario health card and be 16 years of age or older.