Organ donor officials in WA have had to improve labelling procedures after an embarrassing mistake meant organs from a donor in Perth were flown to the wrong interstate cities.
DonateLife yesterday confirmed the mix-up happened last year, when two organs were retrieved from a patient at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and flown to hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney.
Because of incorrect labelling, the organs went to the wrong cities.
A Health Department employee, who asked not to named, said the officials realised the organ retrieval had gone horribly wrong as a critically ill man waited on an operating table in a Melbourne hospital for an urgent transplant.
The source said that when the organ container arrived, the surgeon realised the wrong organ had been packed. It was then discovered the correct organ had gone to a hospital in another State.
A DonateLife spokeswoman said she could not confirm if one of the recipients had been in theatre at the time the mistake was discovered but said in some cases patients waiting on organs were already "prepped" for surgery.
She said the mix-up was isolated and the donated organs were later sent to the right hospitals.
"DonateLife sincerely regrets the errors that led to two donor organs being received by the incorrect interstate hospitals but despite this error, the donated organs successfully reached the correct hospitals and the transplants proceeded and were successful," she said.
"We wish to reassure the community that this was an isolated event and significant changes have been made to minimise the chances of such an occurrence in future.
"DonateLife successfully co-ordinates organ and tissue retrievals each year and appreciates the magnitude of the decision of families to donate the organs of loved ones and entrust them into our care."
The spokeswoman said because of the seriousness of the incident, an expert panel had investigated.
New measures had been introduced, including improved packaging and auditing procedures, staff training and mentoring.
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital distanced itself from the error, saying though its clinical staff were responsible for removing donor organs, DonateLife was responsible for the management of the organs, "including their appropriate storage and transportation".