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Chairman of Organ and Tissue Authority's advisory board resigns

16/06/2015
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Morning television presenter David Koch has resigned as chairman of the Organ and Tissue Authority's advisory board.He announced his resignation during a live broadcast of Channel Seven's Sunrise on 28 May.Mr Koch criticised assistant health minister Fiona Nash, who has ordered an investigation because transplant rates of tissue (including about 2,000 eye donations) "have not increased as quickly as intended".On Sunrise on 28 May, Mr Koch defended progress on donation rates as "world-class" and told Ms Nash to "get a backbone"."You didn't even ring me as chairman of the advisory council to get my view or even tell me it's coming," he said."Obviously I've got no choice but to resign from the position and actively counter the tripe dished out by a whole bunch of rich lobbyists that just talk and do nothing."

Mr Koch was responding in part to reports on two of his own network's programs, Seven News and Today Tonight, which ran segments on the night before that Mr Koch said were highly critical of the reform of Australia's organ and tissue donation system.He told viewers that the segments had presented figures that were selective, which had "really, really annoyed" him.One statistic presented was that Australia ranked 19th in world organ donation rates, behind countries such as Croatia, Latvia and Estonia.However, Mr Koch said that overlooked the fact that Australia's donation rank had risen from 32nd to 19th since the Organ and Tissue Authority was launched in 2009.That jump in the ranks was the equivalent of those experienced by world leaders such as Spain and the United Kingdom in their first six years of reforms, he said.Further, the segments claimed that the organ donation system had cost $250 million, which one [unnamed] professor claimed was money that was not well spent.However Mr Koch said the $250 million figure was spread over six years, and was offset by the vast savings transplants made for the country's hospital systems. The extra kidney transplants alone had saved hospitals $25 million a year, he said.Mr Koch accused the federal government of caving in to pressure from lobby group ShareLife, which has criticised reforms of Australia's organ and tissue donation system.A spokeswoman for ShareLife said: "We're disappointed that Kochie has chosen to attack people rather than sticking to the facts. We do have a vested interest in an inquiry - we think Australians need to know why our organ donation rate is so low after so much money has been invested to turn it round."The assistant federal health minister, Ms Fiona Nash, said later on 28 May: "I note the resignation of David Koch from his position as advisory board chairman of the Organ and Tissue Authority following the announcement of an independent review aimed at improving organ donation rates in Australia."The review has been welcomed in a media statement from the Organ and Tissue Authority."The Organ and Tissue Authority was informed of the review more than a week ago and had input into the terms of reference."Mr Koch's unexpected resignation is a loss to the organisation."The review is seeking to establish if there is anything else we can do to improve organ donation rates in Australia and save lives."It is always unfortunate to lose people of Mr Koch's calibre from such a good cause. I acknowledge the great contribution Mr Koch has made to support increased rates of organ donation in Australia and would welcome his input into the review."

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