The number of kidney transplants is on the rise in Manitoba.

A national report released yesterday by the Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Institute of Health Information says Manitoba is in the top three per capita for kidney transplants in the country, trailing only British Columbia and Ontario.

In a release, Transplant Manitoba says a record 57 Manitobans, including six youth, received kidney transplants in 2016. 25 of those kidneys came from living donors, up from 15 in 2015. Transplant Manitoba says they expect 2017 to beat that number but the final numbers won’t be announced until early in 2018.

“We can say we’ve met and likely surpassed that milestone and we’re eager to get those numbers out there,” said Dr. Faisal Siddiqui, an Organ Donor Physician with Transplant Manitoba.

Siddiqui says Manitoba still sits at the low end when it comes to overall organ donor rates but some programs, such as their mandatory referral policy have helped increase those numbers.

The mandatory referral policy gives families the opportunity to talk to a team of professionals to decide if organ donations are right for them. In the past, the doctor who worked with the patient would have to approach the issue, which was often an unwelcome conversation for both parties, according to Siddiqui.

Now, a donation team – that has nothing to do with the care of a patient – is informed of each individual case and presents the option to donate to the families.

Transplant Manitoba says since adopting the mandatory referral policy, the percentage of all potential donors actually referred has risen from 35.1% in 2014 to 74.3% in 2016.

Siddiqui says that helps, but the best way to declare your desire to be an organ donor is to sign up online and talk to your loved ones.

“It’s important to register if you have that intent to donate,” Siddiqui said. “Talk to your friends and family when you’re healthy and let them know that’s what you want.”

Since January 2017, nearly 4,000 Manitobans have registered with Sign Up for Life, bringing the total number of Manitobans who have registered to almost 22,000.