Jan 23, 2023


Jan 23, 2023

A North Queensland MP desperate to save his cousin and other critically-unwell Australians wants every man, woman and child to be able to receive a free cheek swab kit in the post to see if they can give the gift of life.


Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has ramped up pressure for the Federal Government to accelerate its decision on whether to extend a lifesaving program that recruits bone marrow donors via post.


The program, particularly useful for rural and remote areas that are not serviced by blood donor centres, is run by national stem cell donor registry Strength to Give, which presently has a 6,000 annual donor recruitment limit due contractual constraints.


This number needs to rise to at least 25,000 per year. 


Mr Katter has today reiterated his 2022 calls for the Federal Government to team up with its state counterparts to address the issue enable Strength to Give to arrange mass mail-outs in a bid to recruit donors.


The push comes as support grows for Brisbane man Liam O’Brien, a family member of Mr Katter, who is still desperately searching for a donor since being diagnosed with leukaemia.


Late last year, Mr Katter wrote to both the Federal and Queensland Health Ministers flagging concern with the severe lack of blood, stem cell and bone marrow donation capacity in regional Queensland.


Specifically, complaints were raised about government restrictions hamstringing Strength to Give, which recruits peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow donors through a cheek swab test in the mail.


Mr Katter’s office was informed that the registry’s recruitment was limited to only 6,000 of the required 25,000 annual donors and millions of dollars was locked up under federally-imposed contractual constraints, forcing 80 per cent of transplant patients to find a donor overseas.


Both Ministers’ offices acknowledged more work needed to be done to boost domestic stem cell donor capacity, and said a Clinical Advisory Group had been set up to consider the requirements of establishing regulatory frameworks and pathology labs for cheeks swab donor recruitments over the coming months.


Mr Katter said time was running out for many Australians, and governments needed to address the issue urgently.


“For a good portion of last year my office has been working on the stem cell issue after it was brought to my attention by the family of Bonnie Black, a Charters Towers woman who is battling leukaemia and was seeking a donor,” he said.


“We had half of Charters Towers wanting to sign up to see if they could be a match, but with the mobile blood donor vans of a decade ago cancelled and Townsville only taking plasma, it was a bit of a deterrent for some.


“I’m of the view that every Australian, no matter where they live should be allowed to get on the register if they so choose – governments should be begging us to do this, not us begging them to let us.”


Mr Katter said he would be directly lobbying Federal and State Health Ministers for action.