Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, six months as director of the best of Marca España: the National Transplant Organisation

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Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, six months as director of the best of Marca España: the National Transplant Organisation

Dolors Montserrat, Spanish Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality (centre); Rafael Matesanz, former director of the ONT (left); and Beatriz Domínguez-Gil (right), replacing Dr Matesanz. Photo: EFE/Emilio Naranjo. (EFE)
Dolors Montserrat, Spanish Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality (centre); Rafael Matesanz, former director of the ONT (left); and Beatriz Domínguez-Gil (right), replacing Dr Matesanz. Photo: EFE/Emilio Naranjo. (EFE)

Beatriz Domínguez-Gil is a nephrologist from Galicia (Santiago de Compostela, 1971) who was appointed in May as director of the National Transplant Organisation (ONT), following the retirement of her predecessor, Rafael Matesanz. A graduate from the University of Salamanca, Domínguez-Gil is a medical doctor in General Practice from the Complutense University of Madrid who believes in the proverb that goes, ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’.

You were appointed as director of the National Transplant Organisation six months ago. Was the transition a simple one?

Yes, it was easy, because I am working with a team I know very well, who have always stood by me. They are really supportive, as are the members of the Organisation and the whole national organ donation and transplantation system.

But I should say it was also difficult, because being the director of an Organisation like ours, which is considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Spanish health system, entails a great responsibility. We hope we can do even better than the previous management, and they did very well, indeed.

You joined the team led by Dr Matesanz in 2006. Being a member of the team must be quite different from being its director…

I know the Organisation really well because I have worked here for a while. I have even led some important projects in the past years but I was not the conductor of the orchestra back then, I was just a performer, which is not the same, of course.

Anyway, we did very well in the past decades and I think we should follow the same path. Our goal is to continue to bet on innovation and to adopt new ways of working in our system.

Spain has been the world leader in organ donation and transplantation for the last 25 years. What has the ONT done to help the country hold its place?

We must always thank Spanish people, who are so generous. Apart from that, our donation and transplantation system is based on a management model that has worked perfectly well. We have remarkably skilled professionals who are further trained and guided by the different transplant coordination authority at the hospitals in the national health system.

A record 4818 organ transplants were performed in our country last year, and there were 2019 donors. Do you expect these figures to increase in the future?

These figures are really excellent. In 2016 there were 43.8 donors per million inhabitants, well above the average donation rate in the European Union, Germany, UK or USA.

However, we believe there is still room for growth, strengthening areas we have already started to work on, like cooperation with hospital emergency departments and non-heart-beating donations. We hope we will have 50 donors per million inhabitants by 2022.

What are the donation and transplantation figures so far in 2017?

According to the latest data, from January to September this year there were 7% more donations in the country. The numbers of nearly all the types of organ transplants were higher – significantly higher for some organ transplants. Lung transplantation, for instance, saw a 20% increase as compared to the same period last year.

These figures show we are continuously improving our performance, and I believe they will be even higher by the end of the year, which means we can do even better than we have done so far.

Do you believe these positive figures mean there is more solidarity and altruism in Spain than in other countries?

I believe we are really sympathetic; however, statistics indicate that Spanish society is not significantly more sympathetic than those of neighbouring countries.

But despite statistical data, every day we are witnesses to Spanish people’s extraordinary generosity. An organ donor is someone who dies unexpectedly. Families suffer but find that the decision of donating their loved one’s organs eases the pain.

The ONT has developed marrow donation programmes in the past years. Please, tell us about these programmes.

The marrow donor programme has exceeded our expectations. We thought we would reach 400.000 donors by 2020, but most probably there will be 400,000 already in 2018. Now we need to reset the marrow programme goals for the next years, focusing on young male donors.

A high number of countries are implementing our organ donation and transplantation system. Are there any cooperation programmes? Have they borne fruit?

First of all, there are the multilateral agreements reached at international organisations like the European Council, the European Union or the Ibero-American Network/Council of Donation and Transplantation, created in 2005, with representatives of all the Latin American countries.

Secondly, there are the bilateral agreements signed with individual countries, like those we reached with Portugal, Italy, France or Croatia. All of them have resulted in higher numbers of donations and transplants.

Finally, the Spanish organ donation and transplantation model has been successful in all the countries that implemented it, in full or in part, adapting it to their specific needs.

What are the main goals you would like to achieve as director of the ONT?

Well, I will tell you what I said when I took office: I would like our country to continue to be the leader in this field, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for the next 25 years. Patients waiting for lifesaving organ transplants should be given better chances to get the organs they need as soon as possible.