The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Foundation discontinues eye bank in Olten due to lack of funds

Updated at 05 Feb 2024 11:50 am

The Keradonum Foundation closed its bank for corneas in OIten at the end of 2023 due to a lack of funds. The difference between the actual costs and market prices could no longer be covered by donations. As a result, the situation for corneal transplants in Switzerland is worsening.

The private foundation operated its cornea bank for around 15 years. There, specialists removed the corneas of deceased people, prepared them and stored them. This is now a thing of the past, as Franz Immer, Director of Swisstransplant, confirmed on Monday in a report by Radio SRF.

According to the information from Keradonum quoted by Radio SRF, the removal and preparation of a cornea costs at least 6,000 francs. However, the transplant clinics paid the market price of 2,800 francs per unit. The foundation covered the difference with donations. After a slump in donations during the Covid-19 pandemic, this was no longer possible.

A quarter of domestic donations gone

Swisstransplant, the Swiss Foundation for Organ Donation and Transplantation, regrets the closure. Director Immer told the Keystone-SDA news agency that his organization is working to resume corneal harvesting in Keradonum's contracted hospitals as quickly as possible.

According to Immers, these hospitals had removed 174 corneas for Keradonum in 2023, 87 of which were transplanted. With the discontinuation of Keradonum's activities, a quarter of domestic corneal donations will therefore be lost.

As a result, more corneas will have to be imported until the former Keradonum contract hospitals resume collection. According to Immer, cost-covering collection must be discussed in the medium term so that Switzerland can cover its own requirements. The Council of Europe recommends that countries cover their own requirements.

Over 900 corneal transplants

According to figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), 708 corneas were removed in Switzerland in 2022. However, 40 to 45 percent of the corneas removed cannot be transplanted because they have defects such as too few endothelial cells or contamination. This means that around 400 corneas harvested in Switzerland could be transplanted.

In 2022, Swiss clinics performed a total of 925 corneal transplants. At the same time, 534 corneas were imported into Switzerland.

After the closure in Olten, there are still five eye banks in Switzerland: In the University Hospitals of Bern, Zurich and Geneva, the Cantonal Hospital of Lucerne and the Jules-Gonin Eye Hospital in Lausanne.

The cornea is the clear anterior part of the outer skin of the eye, which is wetted by tear fluid and curved. It forms the frontal end of the eyeball and is responsible for most of the refraction of light.

©Keystone/SDA

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