Five transplant patients receive HIV infected organs in Taiwan

Taipei (dpa) – A hospital administrator in Taiwan has accepted responsibility for a mix-up that led to five transplant patients receiving HIV-infected organs, a news report said Thursday.
Ko Wen-che, head of transplants at National Taiwan University Hospital, said he had failed to set up a centralised, official way to share information about the organs between hospitals.
“I designed this terrible system,” he was quoted as saying by the Apple Daily.
Ko was on a panel that in 1993 recommended that organ collection be outsourced to 10 non-state hospitals around the island.
These then set up independent communication systems with the public and private hospitals they usually supplied to.
But when they sent organs to a new hospital, communication was more ad hoc, potentially leading to errors.
On August 24, five organs from an HIV-infected donor were sent to two hospitals outside the supplier’s normal network.
In the absence of a computer link to the hospital, the organs’ HIV test results were relayed over the phone. The coordinator said the organs were “reactive,” which means HIV-positive, but the doctor heard “non-reactive” and went ahead with the surgery.
It remains unclear whether the five organ recipients have tested HIV-positive.
An official from the Department of Health said that Ko took the fall because he happened to work at a hospital where one of the operations was performed.
Ko was not the only official responsible, said the source, who requested anonymity.
Ko resigned on August 31 and has been barred from practising medicine.
Taiwan’s Department of Health is considering a proposal to reform the system.